Love Militant

“Every individual experience of love should make more vivid for us the whole human relationship.”*

That word. Written of in endless reams. Sung about through the ages. It can casually pass our lips, or we can invest it with such import that we rarely if ever use it. We try to categorize it, while simultaneously use it for the deepest of human emotions or to describe the last meal we ate. Some have said there are four different kinds, arguing that the Greek language was better suited for dropping our indefinite holistic reality into segregated buckets. Some who expound the Scriptures try to explain our relationship with God through the use of these different forms. This is only possible if you explain away the original texts. The Scriptures sometimes used eros where we would think agape should be used, and vice versa. Yet, spoken or written – that word – with whatever meaning, can sometimes change lives. And spoken, written, sung, used in four forms or just a unified one, in action it has been described as nothing less than the meaning of life.

Avril Lavigne’s song “Keep Holding On” (lyrics below) is thematically and emotionally powerful on this point. As a successful (i.e. profitable) piece of pop culture, this song obviously strikes a chord with many people. Music after all is intended to move us; and we often pay much more attention to the sound than the words. We should not, however, separate the words from the music. As a whole, (while not endorsing her entire catalogue) this song is worth examining because it beautifully describes love, without ever using – that word. The story it tells is simultaneously epic and very human. It is struggle, difficulty, people standing by one another, defending the truth, following their destiny, not giving up, and loving unconditionally. Some may see in it an unfortunate over romanticization (which is much too common in this age), and also an over abundance of wishful thinking.

Instead, in this song is found Beauty and The Good, and it speaks to a deep desire in the human heart. We are not meant to be alone. In difficult times we want to know there will be someone with us. The privilege of standing by another at crucial moments is what can make us most human and most divine. This is the opportunity to demonstrate who we are, regardless of over simplified categorizations of love. In the epic story it is the test of the hero; in the story of our lives it is the test of our character. Though to call attention to that which is noble is to cause its noble character to vanish. And no matter the temporal outcome of the battle, love acted upon is always victorious in the universality of Creation. Failures and mistakes in this life there certainly are despite our best efforts. But in answering the call – even if (especially if?) it is small or done in secret – an eternal “Yes!” is spoken that transcends present, past, and future. On the plane of the Timeless it is a resounding triumph that makes hearts jump and changes the world.

In this song there is a call not only to encourage the one in need, the person looking for the hero; but to bolster the strength of the one who must act. If that were all there was then this would be a nice piece for the genre of the epic heroic fantasy. But there is something more. What takes us beyond and to a different place to the difficult and real meaning of love, however, is this constant refrain: “There’s nothing you could say;Nothing you could do;There’s no other way when it comes to the truth.” On YouTube some have put scenes from “The Chronicles of Narnia” to the song (links below). In the Narnia videos, there are almost always scenes of Edmund at this point, reminding us of his betrayal of his brother, his sisters, and Aslan. The reason these lines produce this response is clear: they describe unconditional love. She sings this in an almost shockingly casual manner for something so extraordinary. Many people say they believe in and love this way; unconditionally. Really? Would I really stand by the betrayer? Is love not an exchange; a mutual meeting of needs? Are we really willing to love someone no matter what they say or do? What if they have wounded us deeply? When the pain is like a knife through the heart, what does justice permit? Better, what does justice demand?

If justice were ours to mete out, the question would be legitimate. But it is not. Instead, the only question is, what does love truly require? Exactly what these words say: no matter what you say; no matter what you do. This is the truth about love. Anything less is not. Otherwise it is the cold stare of justice; of standing on our rights and insisting that our needs and expectations be met. We know this already though, because we know that love is long-suffering, is not selfish, is not easily provoked, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It never fails. (1 Corinthians ch. 13).

Love is also fierce. It is often not gentle. With strengthening and deepening she sings, “Before the doors close; And it comes to an end; With you by my side I will fight and defend; I’ll fight and defend.”  This is love militant. This is love that will risk all whatever the outcome. And this is why we need the epic story. Because no matter what we have said or what we have done, or how we have betrayed, there will come a time when we all will need a defender; and at one time or another we will be called to defend. Instinctive reactions may be to seek safety or avoid the inconvenience. This is an understandable reaction, but it is nonetheless the mark of a small life – which I know well.

Love is Good, but it is far from tame. It is not a greeting card, a saccharine-sweet Hollywood romance, or a beautiful Spring Day. It is a shield in the face of hate, a strong tower against hypocrisy, and a sword that with kindness pierces the heart of betrayal. It is the defender of the truth. It is most powerful in its forgiveness. And it is victorious simply through its existence. Love is militant.

Rdr. Timothy, a sinner

*Anne Ridler on Charles Williams in “The Image of the City”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjwYKmD2Bfg&feature=PlayList&p=ACB9CF80CD7A24A8&index=12&playnext=2&playnext_from=PL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PptAICkBzVQ&feature=PlayList&p=ACB9CF80CD7A24A8&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=11

“Keep Holding On” by Avril Lavigne:

You’re not alone
Together we stand
I’ll be by your side, you know I’ll take your hand
When it gets cold
And it feels like the end
There’s no place to go
You know I won’t give in
No I won’t give in

Keep holding on
‘Cause you know we’ll make it through, we’ll make it through
Just stay strong
‘Cause you know I’m here for you, I’m here for you
There’s nothing you could say
Nothing you could do
There’s no other way when it comes to the truth
So keep holding on
‘Cause you know we’ll make it through, we’ll make it through

So far away
I wish you were here
Before it’s too late, this could all disappear
Before the doors close
And it comes to an end
With you by my side I will fight and defend,
I’ll fight and defend
Yeah, yeah!

Keep holding on
‘Cause you know we’ll make it through, we’ll make it through
Just stay strong
‘Cause you know I’m here for you, I’m here for you
There’s nothing you could say
Nothing you could do
There’s no other way when it comes to the truth
So keep holding on
‘Cause you know we’ll make it through, we’ll make it through

Hear me when I say, when I say I believe
Nothing’s gonna change, nothing’s gonna change destiny
Whatever’s meant to be will work out perfectly
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!
La da da daLa da da daLa da da da da da da da da

Keep holding on
‘Cause you know we’ll make it through, we’ll make it through
Just stay strong
‘Cause you know I’m here for you, I’m here for you
There’s nothing you could say
Nothing you could do
There’s no other way when it comes to the truth
So keep holding on
‘Cause you know we’ll make it through, we’ll make it through
Keep holding on…Keep holding on
There’s nothing you could say
Nothing you could do
There’s no other way when it comes to the truth
So keep holding on
‘Cause you know we’ll make it through, we’ll make it through

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