On Love and Waiting

Waiting for love, holding out for optimal, prime joy, is hard.

It’s hard, says author Christian Wiman, because “Love which awakens our souls and to which we cling like the splendid mortal creatures that we are, asks us to let it go, to let it be more than it is if it is only us.”

My personal feelings on love are hard to describe and fully interpret into language understandable by others. I have found this is the case in mostly everyone I have encountered and known.

It’s understood perfectly in feeling, in experience, in reverence for the influence translated through the overwhelming evidence of the human spirit. The sheer privilege of feeling all of this is distinctly human. Beautifully so.

This past week, I was reading a devotional given at BYU by Brent D. Slife on the experience and limitations of explaining love in terms of the psychological.

He perfectly captures, ironically, the uncaptured in my heart surrounding this desire for action I have only ever been able to explain as “love”.

Slife suggests:

“Perhaps first is Marion’s contention that not everything we experience is representable, with love being one of those things. Gracious love is what he considers a “saturated” experience.”

These saturated experiences are under the fine print of being human, and feeling is the only language understood by our hearts in the moment of love. Words may come, but often they are in the form of prose and song. Rarely has the world of psychology been able to holistically explain the unselfish comprehension of love. Slife also covers this point and argues that, in fact, we feel this love to stay in the unexplainable.

He says,

“My purpose today is not to romanticize this love. Instead, my desire is to understand it, at least to some degree. As I interface the sacred and the secular, I am struck by how little my experience of this love is explainable in conventional psychological terms, or, indeed, in any secular terms.”

On why we haven’t explained the saturated experience of love in normal terms, Slife notes:

“It is saturated so much that our experience of it is more than we can grasp or contain in representation.”

Inexplicable love = the perfect mystery.

There came a new level of peace when I read that words did not have to be realized for the feeling felt to have actuality. Moments I have had which were so soaked with this all-encompassing feeling did not and do not require words to be valid.

As a writer from the womb, my frustration before reading what Slife had to say about saturated love had been mounting slowly. Language wasn’t able to grasp even a fraction of the reverence for the moments I had been in; the holiness of love is exactly why having it be unexplainable is precious. But the sunsets were still orange and red and a sunset. The words were describing the stuff I was seeing and sensing, but not what I had been feeling. This is why I have such a deep respect for poets — those conquerors of description.

Language is not able to comprehend true love, and this is why there is so much potent spiritual insight into who we are without words.

I realized this unspeakable, powerful force is our unique finger print as people. We are terrible, emotional beings. Messy, tangled, and yet oh-so simple.

But how do we go forward with this knowledge if we can’t respond in communicable, physical language?

Again, Slife puts the inexplicable into one digestible idea:

“…the only realistic response is a profound honoring of and appreciation for it. This is the reason for my use of the term ‘blessed’ when describing my marriage; our love feels sacred to me, like on of my main duties in life is to reverently protect and nurture it.
Miroslav Volf puts it this way: ‘We enjoy things the most when we experience them as sacraments — as carriers of the presence of another.’ ’’

We humans have the honor of protecting love with awareness of its mystery. Sitting it it, flowing with it, holding out our hands for it so it falls in them like fat drops of rain.

We have the responsibility to nourish each other with the comfort that it is purely a human experience — divinely felt, plaguing our mortal minds. The greatest works of language have centered on the quest to unlock ways of explaining this torment.

“Gracious love, then, is so ‘other’ — so above and beyond — that it doesn’t fit our stereotype or representation of the world. It throws us; it knocks us off our egotistic thrones as controllers of our own little universe. This is the reason we feel so vulnerable when we love.”

Who we are as natural, selfish beings is completely erased by saturated love. The animalistic perspective modern psychology often has on why we are attracted to each other and form relationships is irrelevant. When we truly love, any greedy tendencies flit away. We return to a higher, godlike power within ourselves because of this phenomena.

Began with his writing, and I will end with it.

Christian Wilman on falling in love with his wife:

Not only was that gray veil between me and the world ripped aside, colors aching back into things, but all the particulars of the world suddenly seemed in excess of themselves, and thus more truly themselves. We, too, were part of this enlargement: it was as if our love demanded some expression beyond the blissful intensity our two lives made. I thought for years that any love had to be limiting, that it was a zero-sum game: what you gave with one part of yourself had to be taken from another. In fact, the great paradox of love, and not just romantic love, is that a closer focus may go hand in hand with a broadened scope.”

That broadened scope is what I have enough radical faith to hold out for. At times, my own heart has peered into a microscope telescope of human connection. Glimpses of the expansion we all have the potential to feel motivates me to move forward with the hope that it will return to me again.

Waiting is worth it.

The Experience of Love and the Limitations of Psychological Explanation — Brent D. Slife

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