How Love Grows – Part 1
I don’t know if Bernard, the 12th Century monk, would be amused to find that someone has taken his book On Loving God, and turned his ideas into describing how love grows in a marriage. He was, after all, a monk who never married. His life was focused on his relationship with God. Known today as “Bernard of Clairvaux,” he is one of the most powerful voices heard in the history of the church.
It’s interesting that the Roman Catholic monk Bernard was a man admired by the Protestant reformers, Calvin and Luther. Calvin even considered him a forerunner of the Reformation. For Bernard, the Bible was the final authority for faith issues, and he had a great love and devotion to Jesus Christ as savior. He wrote several hymns that we sing in church today, including “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts,” and “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”
Bernard lived during the period of time called “The High Middle Ages.” The “dark ages” were now past and Europe was heading toward the Renaissance. In many of the courts of Europe, love was being redefined, and adulterous love was becoming more acceptable. The times were much like our contemporary issues related to love and commitment. In the midst of a culture that was struggling with how a love relationship between a man and a woman looked, Bernard wrote about how love grows in our relationship with God.
Bernard begins by saying that the first stage of love with God is basically selfish. It’s about how my relationship with God feels in terms of me. How does God “complete” me. In terms about how this relates to marriage, his beginning stage of love could be restated as “I love you for how you make me feel.” He was not making it into a negative experience; just affirming that our first taste of love is often limited to how loving that person makes me feel. It refers to that phase of love where we “fall in love” with someone. Some call it chemistry, but whatever we call it, it is a universal experience among humans.
In reality, it can also be called an “altered state of consciousness.” We are under the spell of what can be called the “love molecule.” Without it, man and woman would probably not get together–it would be to scary! The problem is, though, the “love molecule” only lasts a couple of years, and then it slowly dies down. When that happens, the work of a loving marriage begins as we begin to develop the “comfort molecule.” But if we get stuck at this stage of the growth of our love, we are constantly working at resurrecting the self-centered feelings of falling in love, and not moving on to add the next stage of love’s growth. We’ll look at that in the next posting.
Question; Why do you think some people never get beyond this stage of love’s growth?