Archives For romance

If You Only Read One Love Story

Chris —  October 5, 2011

If you could only read one love story, you should read A Severe Mercy.  The book is the journey of Sheldon and Davy Vanauken, through romance,  courtship, marriage, infidelity, agnosticism, faith, and eventually death.  The book is best known for containing the author’s correspondance with C.S. Lewis on issues of faith and death.

The book begins with the couple’s meeting and romance in an ivy league college.  They define themselves as “high pagans,” seeking after the higher virtues of classical culture.  They believed that they could keep the “in love” feeling that couples experience early on when they share everything.  They share the details of their days, passionately explore the other’s interests, and even sail around the world together.  The uniqueness of their romance inspires Lewis’s words, and the title “A Severe Mercy.”

Unfortunately, Jesus messes this up.  As honest agnostics and intellectuals, they decide that someday they must look into the claims of Christianity.  When they move to Oxford they encounter intellectuals who also follow Christ, and they begin their investigation.  This result is a correspondance and friendship with C.S. Lewis, who helps personalize much that he his books discuss.  They both experience conversion, but their endless romance is never the same.  Vanauken candidly explains the strains this new faith took on their marriage, and how it took death to rebuild their relationship.

Much of the book grapples the illness and death of Davy, and how their new faith was affected.  Fascinatingly, the correspondence includes letters both before and after Lewis’s own experience with burying a wife.

It’s hard to capture in a blog post the beautiful, thought provoking and heart wrenching nature of this book.  It presents a picture of how faith can be intellectual, how romance can be meaningful, and how death can be accepted.  It is the story of a life well lived, and a love worth emulating.

There may be some legitimate history to Valentine’s Day, but best I can tell it was a joint creation between 1-800-Flowers and the makers of predictably rom-coms with short lived starlets.

For the most part, our generation isn’t too crazy about marriage. We put it off, or substitute a series of common law arrangements. Add to our generational fear of commitment, there are those of us with the “late bloomer” personality.

My romantic history is mainly a series of stories of idealized women I pined for and never made a move, with the occasional fly-by-night heartbreaks that left me incapacitated for months afterwards. And then there’s the ones that got away. Perfectly wonderful women, beautiful, Jesus-luvin’ ladies, that I just didn’t make an effort to pursue.

For those of us who just can’t seem to make it happen, love seems like a constant mystery. There are some amazing guys who just can’t seem to click with a girl. Fantastic ladies who seem to always be ignored. We busy ourselves with good work and good friends. Privately, we obsess over the ones that got away, regretfully reliving the lost opportunities every time they pop up in conversation or on the Facebook feed.

What can we do differently? If only we knew. Until then, we do the best to get our lives together. Maybe therapy, or a good group of friends, or a hobby. We save up money, work out, travel, and try to have meaningful friendships. We put ourselves out there, trying speed dating or online dating or blind dating.

With a little work, asking out a total stranger that you have little in common with is easy. But when you get to know a pretty one whom you also respect, and suddenly curl up in a ball and start doing all that nice guy stuff that always lands you in the friend-zone.

But, if we’re smart, we take the chances we didn’t when we were younger.

If we’ve learned anything, we know that failure isn’t nearly as bad as watching another one get away.