The Eternal Castle of True Love
Dec 10, 1999
When I was a young child, one of my favorite activities was to snuggle up in a soft, friendly chair near a window and read story after story from one of the many volumes of classic fairy tales that I found at our local library. I enjoyed many of the typical "boy" stories -- tales about knights and dragons and adventures -- but one type of story impressed me the most. I have an indelible memory of an image of a castle far off on the horizon, surrounded by white clouds and magnificent trees, with pennants whipped by the mountain wind. Standing on the parapet are a man and woman -- a prince and princess, holding hands and smiling. They've found "true love", and their story never ends, for they will live "happily ever after."
This, I thought to myself, was something I wanted.
I believe that many people would consider that vision attractive. The idea that we can find ourselves, someday in the future, holding hands with our husband or wife, knowing that the love between us will continue forever and that we will live happily ever after, is a dream that tugs at the deepest part of our hearts. Even today, in an age when many people have become cynical about marriage, hope has not been entirely abandoned. Otherwise, no one would get married at all.
I like to think that the prince and princess were standing on the wall of not just any castle, but their very own "castle of true love" -- an environment that surrounded them and buoyed them with the security of home. The big question for me was, "how does one obtain such a castle?" (They're not listed in the Yellow Pages. I already looked.)
I've reached the conclusion that the castle of true love must be built, brick by brick. The unique aspect of this type of castle is that no one else can build it for us. It's built with every kind deed or word, every smile, every hug, every repentant tear -- every ounce of unselfish love that the husband and wife give to each other. Wonderfully large castles take a long time to build, sometimes at the cost of great suffering. One might say that castles of true love are sometimes built "brick by bloody brick."
Why can't we just "fall in love" and suddenly find ourselves ensconced in our castle? It is definitely true that people do "fall in love." Their eyes meet, across the room, and boom -- they're married. Emotions are powerful, there's no denying that. The issue really isn't whether couples love each other at the outset -- although that is indeed very nice. The real issue is how to maintain and build upon that love -- to turn an initial emotional attraction into a burning, roaring furnace of stellar quality love that will last literally forever.
Forever? Happily ever after? What about "'till death do us part?" I believe that unselfish (and therefore "true" love) didn't haphazardly evolve from inanimate rocks and dust. It's illogical to think that the powerful, invisible, boundlessly creative force of unselfish love could have sprung from anything other than a creative being. Let us assume then, that God not only created love itself, but the very concept of loving one's spouse in marriage.
A vital aspect of our love is that we want it to continue forever. When a person whom we love dies, we grieve, because we want to continue loving them -- we want to be with them, more and more. It's also not logical to think that the God who created limitless love created it to terminate at the end of our physical lives. That would be cruel. It makes sense to assume that God's original desire would be that husbands and wives love each other forever, continuing on after their physical deaths, and expanding their love for each other eternally, in the "spiritual world."
It may not be popular or common to state that true love comes from God and that true love was created to continue for eternity in the spiritual world -- but these points certainly aren't negative factors when one examines the prospects of marriage. The idea that marriage can be eternal, and not simply "'till death do us part" is an exciting, joyous concept that entirely changes the way that we think about marriage.
Theology complicates matters here, for there are many different views about where "fallen man" actually goes after death. For the sake of this discussion let's limit our range to the ideal situation that both God and humankind would prefer to see happen. Let's use the "heartistic logic" that God is a loving Creator and would like the love of a husband and wife to continue forever. This viewpoint also rests upon the premise that love is an immutable, eternally attractive force that everyone wants to experience.
The knowledge that we marry "for eternity" creates a tremendous change in our perspective about our relationship with our spouse. The subsequent commitment to stay married for eternity helps one develop long-range patience when difficulties in the relationship arise. Difficulties are inevitable, aren't they? Why do married couples struggle so much, even though they may have loved each other deeply in the beginning?
We are waylaid by our own selfish, corrupted natures, and by our wretchedly inadequate capacity to love others. Are these words too strong? Not if we compare our quality of love to what it should be. Naturally, this viewpoint requires humility and repentance -- which are hard to muster up. Arrogance is horribly sneaky, and it's very easy to blame our spouse for all of our marital difficulties. "If only he ... (or she) loved more... ." It's true. He or she does need to love more. But what about me? Have I really, really, really loved enough? Determining, with repentance, to love more will liberate us, and stimulate us to improve our relationship with our spouse.
Although our spouse may, at certain times, inflict suffering upon us (or vice versa), our own commitment to love our spouse has amazing power. Love is like magic. When we express beautiful, unselfish concern, care and love for someone, and serve them with the same heart, the other person can't escape the impact of our love. The person may ignore it, or try to run away from it, but if we give our love to the other person endlessly, without limitation, the object of our love will inevitably respond. Why? Because ultimately, everyone wants to be loved, and to love in return. That one fact should give us unlimited confidence in the power of unselfish love. After fourteen years of marriage to my wonderful wife, I can see the walls of our castle rising around us, built by our mutual commitment and effort.
When we're at the ground level of our castle of true love, and we've just been hit by a falling brick, it may be difficult to look into the future. We always have a choice. We can stop building, and walk away, relinquishing our castle, or we can determine to love our spouse "beyond death", beyond any limitation or boundary, for 1,000 years into the future (and more) until we and our spouse have the most beautiful, magnificent, delightful relationship of true love in the universe. At that moment, I believe that the husband and wife will have become so close in heart that their relationship will be unbreakable and eternal. We will be a prince and princess, gazing out over a beautiful realm of heart that will continue forever.