“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
Ever since my earliest days of studying Shakespeare way back in middle school, sonnet 116 has always been my favorite. As the years go on, I think my enjoyment of it only increases. In today’s world where we love things and use people, Shakespeare’s wisdom is a voice crying out, a shelter in the storm, a Truth amid the lies. Love – true, life-changing, sacrificial, passionate love – does not altar when it finds alteration. When love meets a bump in the road or the largest pot-hole known to man it doesn’t simply walk away. To love means to choose to love for the sake of Him who is Love.
We forget all too easily what love really means. Love is an emotion, but it is also a choice, an action, and a habit. Love is not an investment. We tend to think that love is merely an emotion, one that comes and goes like the coming of the tide. It crashes over us and then washes back out to sea when it gets to be too much. But love, as Christ shows us, is more than the coming of the tide. Love is the tide – it envelops and consumes us, leaving us forever changed. Love is the force that holds strong when all around us seems lost. The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, “This [God’s promise] we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil.” God, who is Love, is our anchor, sure and firm, when all seems lost. Why should the love we profess for one another be any different?
Love sees beyond the veil into our hearts and doesn’t run away. Love does not bend with the remover to remove. Love is the ever-fixed mark, the sure strength we seek all of our days, the hope that never fails, the light that never fades, the grace to carry on, and the reason we live and move and have our being. Love is more than a mere enjoyment of something (i.e. I love pizza), but rather a desire to be wrapped in goodness, truth, and beauty. What C.S. Lewis once wrote in The Weight of Glory about beauty is just as true of love, “We do not want to merely see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” We don’t want merely to see love, though God knows that is a reward in and of itself. No, we want something more: to experience love, to pass into love, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, and to become Love. We desire to love because He first loved us, and He loves us in such a profound way that we can’t help but share and spread that love. In all the tricks of the world, in the passing fads and cheap scams, what we really want is to believe the words of Shakespeare, to believe that love bears life out, even to the edge of doom. We want love so sincerely, so deeply, that we can join him in saying that “If this be error upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”