Again, my long neglect of this blog has not so much been because I have forsaken writing, but because my writing energies have been focused along more creative lines. Hopefully you all will have a chance to appreciate those energies in due time; in the meantime, here are some thoughts on developments in our lives:
I recently had the opportunity to do something that I'm not going to have many opportunities to do: walk a lovely daughter down the aisle at her wedding. This old custom, known as “giving away”, raises hackles in some quarters, who automatically paint it as a degrading vestige of patriarchy, with the woman being treated like property to be handed off from one Domineering Male to another.
Fortunately, the participants and attendees at this wedding were too well-educated to buy into such simplistic interpretations, but the term offers a good opportunity to meditate on the nature and manners of love. Of course, my daughter was never “mine” in a proprietary sense, even when she was a newborn. She hasn't even been “mine” in a custodial sense for many years, since she eased into a mature and personal relationship to her True Father. She's lived on her own for quite some time, traveled further and studied more than I have, made courageous and costly decisions, and accepted responsibility for her own life. Of course I've supported her as I could, offering support and sympathy and feeble advice, but I've by no means directed her life – she's made her own decisions.
Still and all, I think there's an important lesson behind the custom of “giving away”, and I could hardly find a better living example of it than the wedding itself. In all her travels and studies, my daughter has made many friends – not just casual acquaintances, but serious heart companions. She has poured herself out in love to those she meets, at times at great personal cost. She has given herself away in love, because love is the most important thing on earth.
At the wedding we saw some of that coming back around. One of the guests was a friend of my daughter's who had gone through some turbulent times in her life some years before. My daughter helped her through those times – I know because my daughter would retreat to her room for long, supportive phone conversations. That friend made it through those times into a wonderful marriage to a good man, without damaging any family relationships in the process. So when it came time for my daughter's special celebration, this friend showed up and essentially made herself a personal servant of my daughter and our whole family – serving in any way necessary without regard for dignity or convenience. Another dear friend was there with her loving husband and wonderful little baby boy. I know that my daughter had helped both the friend and her husband during some difficult years before their marriage – not with professional counsel, but with a steadfast, loving presence. I can't say for sure, but my guess is that my daughter's love was a critical component in that family forming and staying together. They were there to support and embrace my daughter as she began her married life.
These are but two examples of how the love which my daughter had poured out came flowing back to her on that blessed day. The hall was full of people who were there to rejoice with the new couple and, in a small way, pour back the love that they had poured out in their time (I'm sure it was equally true of my new son-in-law, but I don't know his stories as well.) My daughter had given herself away over the years, given in love in response to her Heavenly Father's promptings, and now love was given back to her.
So, what am I saying? That love is a prudent investment because it always has a good ROI? That's a self-contradictory attitude – something that is done in a calculating manner, trying to evaluate the “return”, is something other than love. Love can only be freely given by independent agents who seek the good of another – anything less fall short of true love. Sometimes we get a chance to perceive the fruit of our love, sometimes we don't. My daughter saw some of it on her wedding day (and that was a lot!), but I imagine that much more wasn't manifested there due to simple practicalities – people couldn't make it, etc. But in time, all the love she has poured out will come pouring back to her, as it does for all of us.
In that sense, all acts of love are “giving away”. I didn't walk down that aisle to “give away” my daughter as one would give away an object. What I was “giving away” was love – in this case the loving person my daughter had become, freely and joyfully granted into the capable hands of her new husband, who will pour himself out in love for her good. It was a symbolic act, but one that exemplifies the very nature of love.