THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE
I love it when lover’s with a true heart overstate their case. That’s one of the beauties of poetry; the lover can tell his beloved what he means and how he feels even though he doesn’t mean what he says and she rapturously believes all he means without having to believe all he says.
Part of the joy of loving is to say loving things and a host of us love profoundly and sincerely but don’t have the words to say to express it to the one we love. That’s where the poet comes in. It’s no crime, don’t you know, not to have poetic words—plain or fancy—but the language of love enriches the experience for both. And there comes a point when perfectly good prose speech isn’t enough to say what the heart’s filled with, so we resort to the use of images and analogies, to outrageous claims and sometimes just plain lovely silliness. In the words of Buisson, Sananes and Carl Sigman one lover says to his beloved:
Till the moon deserts the sky;
Till all the seas run dry
I’ll worship you.
Till the tropic sun grows cold
Till this young world grows old
My darling I’ll adore you
He doesn’t mean a word of it and yet he’s telling the truth about how he feels about her. She knows full well she can’t take his words seriously and yet because she knows what he has said is true she’d throw herself in front of a bus for him.
I think I know that words can be cheap—God forgive me, haven’t I used words that way—but there are times when we wish we were titans and could do and be more than we are for we know that we want to do more and be more for our beloved. In light of our limits we can’t do or be to those we love all that we feel and want to be, but we’re certain we would if we could and so we make impossible claims and say silly things in a desperate attempt to express the commitment we truly feel.
Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice makes that point to Bassanio. She says she isn’t particularly ambitious to be any better or grander than she is—except when she thinks of herself in relation to him. For his sake she would like to be more. Here’s how she puts it.
Though for myself alone
I would not be ambitious in my wish
To wish myself much better, yet for you
I would be trebled twenty times myself;
A thousand times more fair,
Ten thousand times more rich;
That only to stand high in your account,
I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends,
We feel like that when we sings hymns in worship; hymns that say so much more than we presently live up to. We sing, “All to Jesus I surrender” or “Jesus is all the word to Me” and when we reflect on our many failures we wonder at our right to do it. I think such singing is brave because we’re sure that some who know us well will raise an eyebrow or roll their eyes at our passionate avowals and our own guilty consciences often rebuke us severely when we use grand and limitless words in praise and commitment to God. Still, because we have the longing in us [if indeed it's there] to be more and better and because the words express our hunger and our quest rather than our achievement we sing on. That is brave; gallant even. It’s like Peter walking into the upper room filled with disciples for the first time after his triple denial of Jesus when he had sworn he never would deny him, even if all the rest did. He wouldn’t allow sneers or rolling eyes to keep him from starting fresh and his Master who “knew everything” believed him when he said, “You know that I love you” (John 21:15-17). He’ll believe you too so sing on, pray on.
My Ethel and I grew up together on lovely romantic ballads and I’d sing a lot of them to her, especially in her last few years here. She couldn’t take my words seriously but she believed everything I meant and received it with undisguised pleasure and generous grace. No rolling eyes or curled lip that said it’s impossible; so I sang on. Click here.
God will do no less than graciously take pleasure in our sincere praise, confession and renewed commitment so tell it all to him and encourage others like yourself to tell him of their love even if the language is "over the top".
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.