This is a guest post by Paula Huston.
Ours was the ultimate contemporary romance. Both married, we met, fell in love, and against every value we’d been raised to honor, began a secret relationship that lasted many years. This clandestine affair cost us so much in terms of stress and guilt that it took on a mythical glow. Who, we asked ourselves, had ever loved as we did?
This kind of love, both erotic and romantic, brings enormous intensity to existence. Life feels charged with transcendent meaning. It seems natural and noble to sacrifice everything on romantic love’s high altar. However, C.S. Lewis warns that once we begin to worship Eros, we serve a demon in disguise, one who sees “acts of injustice or uncharity against the outer world” as “proofs of piety and zeal.” Eros in its obsessive, demonic form demands that we lay our very conscience at its feet.
We were so deeply invested in the belief that our illicit love was somehow right and true that we were naively shocked when others finally came shouldering into our private world of two, demanding an accounting. The fantasy that had fueled our lives for so long was shattered in an instant.
During the hard years that followed, which included divorces, broken relationships, and continued, serious repercussions for our children, we had to relearn entirely what true love means. We discovered that it requires a wide-ranging concern for others that obsessive Eros can never allow. It requires the ability to ask for and grant forgiveness. It requires honesty, loyalty, and deep humility. Unlike erotic love, which often feels like an irresistible force of nature, this kind of love does not come naturally at all.
We who met when we were very far from God but who found him in the midst of the devastating whirlwind we’d unleashed, have through his mercy and grace been married nearly 30 years now. In many ways, it has been a long and difficult journey. But thanks to God, we can honestly say that we finally found true love.
Paula Huston is the author of The Holy Way: Practices for a Simple Life, By Way of Grace: Moving from Faithfulness to Holiness, and A Season of Mystery, about the second half of life.