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Work of love? It requires initial attraction, perpetual attention
Tuesday, 05 September 2006 17:49
Marc Mullinax
"Love is everything itës cracked up to be ... It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you donët risk anything, you risk even more."
 ÇƒÏ Erica Jong
MARS HILL ÇƒÏ One of my great pleasures is counseling couples for marriage, and assisting in their wedding ceremonies. I insist on the counseling part, for love is easy to fall into, but hard to make stay.

In fact, you cannot make it stay. Thereës a mystery to love that defies formulaic principles for making it stay. Each couple has to work that formula out for themselves.

Then they must renegotiate that formula. What works in Year One of a marriage may be outdated by Year Five, or earlier. Ranier Maria Rilke has written the truth: For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.

To fail the tests of love in our lives means that we run the risk of living lovelessly. Such a condition is fatal to our souls, long before our bodies wear out.

Failing the love requirement is only half the problem. To renounce love means that one must ultimately renounce Mystery. For who really knows why we wake up beside the person we do? Sure, we can enumerate various logical reasons about looks, and sexual appeal, or even soul attraction, but can anyone really put into words what really cranks their gears when it comes to Mystery?

We need Mystery. There is not a substitute for it. Love is perhaps our best device for getting us in continuous touch with the Mystery of being, of being connected, of forgiveness and grace, and soul-growth. Thus, as one ages, love perhaps becomes more a means than an end.

I guess to experience such mysteries with one person oneës whole life-long is a grace worth praying for. Itës also worth working and sweating for.

To such a life, I have a book to recommend. Asheville residents Shonnie Lavender and Bruce Mulkey (who are married to each other) have just published a book entitled, "I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook." But itës a book that is not so much about wedding vows but about life-promises to oneself and oneës lover.

I like this book because it is a practical reminder to listen. Listen to oneës own life, and then get your self out of the fricking way to listen to your loverës life. Many of us are perhaps raised that if we really love someone who is our "soul mate," then that person will automatically know what I want without asking for it.


Truly, communication is about becoming aware of oneës needs and how those needs affect one, or infect a relationship. Once aware, one can then hear anotherës needs being communicated.

Becoming aware is key; it rarely happens, especially after the first year of marriage.

Lavender and Mulkeyës book then, is an excellent one. They were writing it for wedding planners. Iëm recommending it to all those who are in love, and want to enable love to stay.

Apart from the workbook style of the book, there are numerous quotes on love and relationship-building, the kind one could copy and paste onto your computer, refrigerator, or nightstand.

Take the dare to work to make your love stay. Pick up their book, the details of which you can find at

Dr. Marc S. Mullinax, chairman of the philosophy and religion departments at Mars Hill College, can be reached at


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