Love Without Compromise
Stan told me that he met her when they were 11. I’ve heard this story many times. He was new in their Texas, small town, school and she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. It was February and as he searched his pockets he collected 5 cents; just enough to purchase one Valentine card which he gave to her. Within the hour he was confronted by the toughest kid in the school who said, “She’s my girl. Don’t ever give her a gift again.” They began to scuffle in the hall when the coach intervened. 82 years ago in rural Tx the rules were different than they are now. The coach had the boys lace up a set of boxing gloves, walk out on to the athletic field and instructed them to solve their problem. They did.
Today we will say good-bye to Alys, the prettiest girl in school, and the gentler half of 72 years of marriage and 82 years of friendship. This story will surely be told along with many others we have learned to cherish throughout the years.
Once I sat with them and asked, “What advice would you give to those of us who would like to have a marriage as long and lovely as yours?”
She said, “Don’t get divorced.”
He took her hand, looked at me, and without hesitation said, “Abandon the idea of compromise. The quest for 50/50 anything leads to score keeping, competition and sooner or later, a winner and a loser. It doesn’t work in love.”
“What do you do?” I asked.
“You give 100%. All the time. Whether the other one does or not. Then you will love more deeply and so will they. And even if they don’t you will become a more gracious and kind person.”
“Alys,” I asked, “Have you both been able to live this way?”
“Almost always,” she said. “We have had a wonderful life.”
What do you think? To what have you given 100%, every day, for your entire lifetime? I can recognize things I have wanted to give 100% every day…but can I even say that? I wish I had loved Ann and each of our children 100%, every day, but I fear their have been days I have not tried that hard. I am an absolute follower of Jesus. This is the thing that directs my life above all else. Have I given 100% to this following, every day, without exception? Probably not. I certainly have not loved myself 100%, without condition, everyday and I have not loved you that well either. I have wanted to love my neighbor as myself, to love my enemy and to pray for those who wish me harm…to do all of these things. I continue to want to live with this kind of loving consistency and I am far more likely to do this well at 64 than I was at 24. My guess is that Stan and Alys probably had a day or two or more when they were unable to embrace a love this loftily defined. I would also guess that through the etherial, misty fog of 82 years together, their hearts have chosen to forget the days that don’t bear remembering. For now they rest on different sides of that great divide, but soon enough all divisions will be removed. As for me? This afternoon we will pour her ashes into a place prepared for them, in the Rose Garden, beside the sanctuary and under a brass plaque that bears her name. As I empty the remnants of her material self into the ground I will pray, “Oh God, allow me to love, 100%, without compromise, those things valuable enough to have that claim on my life, and to all else, may you offer forgiveness as I struggle to offer grace.”