Sunday, May 8, 2011

Love = Risk, Part I

Once upon a time, my pastor preached on the Gospel and asked his congregation, "Do you know another way to spell love?" (Pretend you are hearing the question and not reading.) After a scripted pause, he then spelled R-I-S-K. I wasn't expecting that surprise twist for an answer... but it makes logical and emotional sense to me. If I want to truly experience the fullest depths of love, I have to be vulnerable, which means trusting another, and thus possibly opening myself to disappointment and loss. Love is a form of risk taking.

I kick off my meditation with the following scripture: "You are always with me, and everything I have is yours" (Luke 15:31)

The rich, evidently, look favorably upon prenuptial agreements. Generally speaking, in the event of irreconcilable differences, you can be entitled to a base amount of M dollars and other assets; for every X years of marriage, you can be entitled to N additional dollars per year and more assets. I wouldn't have any clue about this topic if it weren't for the interesting celebrity news reported like here, here, and here:
  • The original prenup of Tiger Woods "was worth $20 million after 10 years of marriage. However... the term of the prenup has been shortened to seven years, and that a series of staggered payments could increase the total value to $75 million."
  • Khloe Kardashian has protected herself by asking for "$5000 a month for shopping, $25,000 a month for support, and season courtside tickets to the Lakers for her whole family."
  • "When Russell Crowe married Danielle Spencer in 2003, reports surfaced that Spencer would receive a minimum of $15 million if the couple stayed married for at least 3 years."
  • "Katie Holmes is said to earn $3 million for each year she stays married to Tom Cruise. After 11 years of marriage, this is voided and Holmes is entitled to half of Cruise’s fortune."
  • For Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ©, "if the marriage ends within two years, Jay would have to give BeyoncĂ© several million dollars upfront and an additional million for each year she remains in the marriage, for up to fifteen years."
I've done my Google homework and can see this philosophy pushing downward onto the average American. However unpopular my opinion is, I don't believe in prenuptial agreements. Why? I cannot reconcile the desire to withhold what I have, and, the way Jesus became "one flesh" (Gen 2:24) with the "the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). How can I? I don't think it's possible in light of the Gospel. Jesus forfeited looks, riches, power, political influence, friends, and the breath of life (see Gen 2:7; John 19:30) to follow His beloved spouse through the doorway of death and save her. I believe Christ has shown Himself to be the perfect husband. Everything that He has -- the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection, and the Life Everlasting -- is poured-out fully and shared.

Seriously, I don't live in a cave. I disagree with the need for a prenup but can comprehend why others might find them necessary. All over the world, people have worked hard to accumulate thousands, millions, and even billions of dollars. The wealthy want to protect themselves, and are on guard against charlatans who would leach off their earnings and good fortune. Can you imagine having to be suspect of everyone you meet? Questioning why this or that person likes you, wants to be your friend, or marry you? It could lead, I imagine, to a complex of trusting no one. The prenup is then, like a fire blanket, providing safety to the worried newlywed if the marriage were to go up in smoke: love might be lost but not riches.

Now read this scripture from Luke 12:13-21:
Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" And He said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."
If you may grant such a novel interpretation, what if these "ample goods" were diligently secured in the rich man's prenup? Unfortunately, as the story goes, he will not get to enjoy any of it. Even worse, he will have to explain to the Judge of Judges and King of Hearts why he deemed his (former) wife so undeserving of full ownership. Honestly, I wouldn't want to be in that position. How about you?

Lastly, don't be misled by my scrutiny -- as if I have any right to judge (see Matt 7:1-5). No, there is a tremendous gap between Christ and myself. He is the perfect husband while I am a lowly imitation. I love my wife, but He loves the Church perfectly. He never jumped off His cross to avoid pain, but I've been known to jump off mine in times of distress. There's really no comparison between God's infinite greatness and my infinitesimal smallness. Although I share all financial assets with my wife (and cheerfully do so!), I, too, like those aforementioned celebrities, am not immune from heart problems. There is always more of my heart to give... and therefore still more risk to take.

» Continue to Love = Risk, Part II...