I, Issac, Take Thee Rebekah: The Will to Do
- Tuesday, February 10, 2004
My brother and my father flew from Toronto to Bombay. More than one thousand wedding invitations were sent before my brother and his bride-to-be had ever seen each other. Two days after his arrival was the engagement date and a day or so later was the wedding date. He would then bring his bride back to Canada, all within a week, and they would live "happily ever after." That, at any rate, was the plan.
I thought to myself, Oh my! You know, this is faith. Maybe it is even less than that. This is credulity! I began to get really concerned, so before my brother left for Bombay I mustered up the courage to caution him. I said, "I don't want to challenge anything you're doing, but I do have a brief question. What are you going to do when you arrive in Bombay, come down the Jetway and see a young woman standing there with a garland in her hand, and say to yourself, Good grief! I hope that's not her. I hope that's somebody else! Or she looks at you and thinks to herself, I hope that's not him, I hope that's his brother! What on earth will you do? Are you going to take her aside, talk it over, and then make an announcement saying, 'We have met . . . we will not be proceeding with our plans'? Will you get on the telephone or write letters to everybody and say, 'Folks, we've met. The wedding is off.'"
My brother just stared at me. He said, "Are you through?" I told him that for the moment I was just awaiting his answer. Then he said something that was absolutely defining for him: "Write this down, and don't ever forget it: Love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion. And if you will to love somebody, you can."
That statement brought our conversation to a sudden stop. That was thirty-five years ago. My brother and his wife now have three children and make their home in Toronto. Has it been easy? No. Marriage never is easy. But the challenges do not come from the absence of commitment.
The first thing to bear in mind is that we exaggerate the separation of the emotion and the will as two distinct faculties of operation-some kind of misshapen two-headed monster. Think, for example, of the caricature we make of one difference between men and women. We seem to think that women are more emotionally driven and men more cerebrally driven. If that caricature were true, why is it that more men fall into infidelity after marriage than do women? If women are more emotionally driven, should it not be the other way around? I think it more appropriate to say that women in general recognize the emotional ramifications of their acts better than men do. Men do feel emotion, but they do so selectively and fail to face the consequences of reality. Betray a man and you find out that his emotions surge to the top. I believe that a legitimate understanding of what is happening here can preserve the grand union between emotion and will.
Without the will, marriage is a mockery; without emotion it is a drudgery. You need both.
We like the side dealing with emotion, not the will. I have now been married more than thirty years. I often look back at the time when I was on the other side of the marital line and remember how I thought about marriage then. One particular conversation stands out. A year before I was married, I was sitting in a Christian education class when the professor quite dramatically started to philosophize about life. Commenting on the home, he said, "I want you students to know that love is hard work."
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