Friday, November 14, 2008

Jesus and Bridget Jones



I have something to confess...

I absolutely adore “Bridget Jones' Diary.”

Yes, I know it’s raunchy and silly. I know it contains gratuitous sex and foul language.

Still, it remains one of my all-time favorite tragi-comedies.

One of my kids got this the other night. She and her sister were watching it on the tube in LA, while I was back in Athens doing fun things like voting, getting a flu shot (hear that, Mother?), and a mammogram. That particular daughter and I had exchanged some ‘difficult’ words the night before I left LA, so I was elated to receive the following text (verbatim) from her:

“we’re watchin Bridget jones.....It’s true....I LOVE YOU just as you are. what would i do without you? xoxoxo.”

(Oh, the charming complexities of the mother/daughter relationship!)

But back to Bridget: She is the archetypal Everywoman. (And –man, actually.)

She’s a mess. Bridget sets self-improvement goals which she can’t keep. She makes vows and breaks them. Her daily fare is a foot sandwich, chagrin on the side. Her psyche teeters torturously between delusions of grandeur and abysmally low self-esteem. But even though her best is never quite good enough, she keeps trying. She ‘gets knocked down, but she gets up again.’

She is the secular embodiment of Romans 7. In some ways, I’m a lot like Bridget.

All she really wants in the whole wide world is what we all long for: to be loved just for who we are, warts and all. She wants someone who thinks she’s worth it...someone who believes in her potential whether or not she ever comes close to reaching it. Bridget wants a man willing to fight for her. She wants someone who just wants her, thick or thin. (Pun intended.)

Being a lit-freak, I appreciate author Helen Fielding’s clever transposition of some of the early 19th Century characters (or types) from Pride and Prejudice into 20th Century London. Quite a cultural contrast...yet ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same,’ as the French say.

Just as Elizabeth Bennett is shocked to find true love where she least expects it, so Bridget is obliged to lay aside the prejudice of an initial bad impression and the pride which might force her to cling to it. Faced with a “You can be right, or you can be happy” dilemma, she wisely chooses happiness. (At least for a while.)

The pivotal exchange of dialogue between Bridget and the 20th Century Mr. Darcy:

Mark Darcy: I like you, very much.
Bridget: Ah, apart from the smoking and the drinking, the vulgar mother and... ah, the verbal diarrhea.
Mark Darcy: No, I like you very much. Just as you are.

JUST AS YOU ARE.

And that, my friends, is the bottom line of the Good News.

We are loved just as we are. More than we can possibly imagine.

(...because that kind of love is a rare gift among human beings.)


In the past 6 months, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing this kind of love lived out to the extreme.

***************

A cherubic young man with a boy’s face can’t contain his grin. The sparklingly beautiful bride beams. Handel’s Chorus majestically pours from the church organ, rattling the tall windows of the elegant antebellum structure.

Flash to the reception. It is an absolutely gorgeous day. A too-good-to-be-true Hollywood set day. The November Georgia sky is a brilliant Carolina blue. Heaven’s weather. Delicious breeze. Gorgeous flowers everywhere. Clink of glasses. Tempting aromas. Family. Friends from around the globe. Mellow music outside, rockin’ vibes inside. Uncontainable electric joy ricochets off the columns and floats up into the pale sapphire sky like an escaped balloon.


Laughing and waving wildly, Barbie and Ken are whisked away in a limo to their assured happily-ever-aftering.

The DVD ends.

The mothers of the bride and groom exchange quick glances.

I get up off the sofa and go into the bathroom.

The contrast is so breathtakingly extreme.

***************

I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

***************

But this is not what the boy in the DVD signed up for.

The girl he fell head-over-heels in love with was not the kind of girl who needed a man to hold her up. A young man would consider himself lucky if he could even catch up with her. The girl in the DVD was the kind of girl who inspired songs. The lyrics to a particularly catchy one written in her honor (/at her expense) by a college band included the line, “Hold on, Katherine, you’re movin’ way too fast...” That girl was a mover and shaker. She made things happen.

That beautiful young bride was a force of nature. Heads turned when she entered a room. People listened when she spoke...which was in a loud, clear, articulate voice. She was a passionate, motivating speaker. She was a compassionate, empathizing friend. She was the aroma that drew people in, the glue that kept them together.

She seemed to be uniquely blessed. She won awards she didn’t seek, accolades she never expected. She was a “winner.” She provoked intense loyalty in some, envy in others...as those who run outside the pack always do. She was a klutz who won beauty queen titles, a prude who was adored by the frat boys who chose her as their sweetheart. She was loved and respected by professors and given prestigious responsibilities. She was a bright and rising star, with potential reaching to the skies. She had everything the world considers of value...brains, beauty, talent, popularity, ambition...the whole package. And in spite of all that, she was even a nice person.

So she headed to California to pursue her dreams, which seemed easily within her reach.

The young man said, “Whither thou goest, I shall go...”

Little did he know where that would lead them.

***************

They had to cut her wedding ring off in the emergency room.

Last week, for her fourth anniversary, her husband gave her another one. This one is even more beautiful than the original. It is an “eternity” ring....a circle of diamonds set in white gold. The fiery furnace of adversity has unveiled the true gold of eternal, selfless, unconditional love. The diamonds sparkle as a reminder of the secret treasures they’ve found hidden in the darkness. The circle, of course, represents love without end.

The wife is now very altered from how she appeared in the wedding DVD of four years ago. I know that there must be times when her husband misses her as she used to be...the sound of her clear, strong voice...her laugh...her infectious energy...her zest for life...her efficiency at solving problems, her ability to make everything okay. But the love he evidences now seems deeper, stronger, richer than before. There is an amazing gentleness as he takes care of her basic needs. There is actually even joy...as he fills her feeding tube, bandages her damaged eye, wipes her nose, helps her with a shower on onto the toilet....as he cooks and cleans and does the laundry and changes diapers....as he plans 1-year-old birthday parties and fields phone calls and emails and fills out grocery bags full of insurance forms.

I have been greatly moved in witnessing the mature love that has grown out of this seeming tragedy. The boy has become a man of whom I am very proud, and for whom I am extremely grateful. At an age when many of their peers are still ‘not over’ college, the love that Katherine and Jay bear for each other has ripened to a degree that many marriages never attain.

Shortly after Katherine’s surgery, a friend sent me back a present I had given her years ago. At the time, my friend was going through a very dark period and feeling unlovable. She was acting out of her pain. I gave her a silver locket with a line from a Shakespearean sonnet engraved on it to assure her that I still loved her no matter what. Now I have this locket hanging from the lamp next to my bed in LA. It is a wonderful reminder for me. The quote was taken from Sonnet 116:


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 wand'ring 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


Oh yes, there have been impediments...and alterations...and terrible tempests in the lives of this young couple.

The love of which Shakespeare writes is a love that remains constant no matter what “alterations” occur in the beloved or in the relationship. But as appealing as this romanticized ideal of courtly love is, I don’t believe it is really possible to love that way unless we have first received and accepted an even greater love ourselves.

In The Four Loves, Lewis introduces the concept of “need-love.” I think the majority of what passes for love in this world falls into that category. ("I love you because you meet my needs in some way"... "I love you because of the way you make me feel"... "I love you because of what you do for me")

But in coming to a more mature and complete understanding of how totally, unconditionally, and sacrificially we are loved by our Creator (and always have been), we are set free from the bondage of our needs. Only then are we are free to love with abandon, and in doing so, we set others free from our expectations. Human beings simply cannot meet each other's deepest needs.

When we allow ourselves to be filled to the brim with the love of God, that inexhaustible love flows out of us in a steady stream. My son-in-law knows that kind of love. That love gets up at midnight to walk his wife to the bathroom or change a stinky diaper. (The baby's, not hers!) That love finds her more beautiful with a crossed eye and a shaking hand than he did on the day he looked into her gorgeous aqua blues and put a ring on her finger. (Plus, he's still just flat out crazy about her, as she is of him.)

I thank God that my 26-year-old son-in-law is so "rooted and established in love, that he has received the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that he may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:17-19) And from that place of fullness, he is able to live out Christ's call to love my daughter selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditionally:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34)


If Bridget had just known Jesus, it might have lasted.....forever.

**************

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Ephesians 5:25)

15 comments:

plilr said...

I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes, as I always am after I read one of your posts. I'm so grateful that you and your family are who you are so that you can deal with this trauma with as much grace as you have. I am so grateful that Katherine and Jay have one another--I have said this before, but I hope that someday I will find someone that will love me like that. They really are weaving an incredible love story, one for the ages, that will go on to inspire so many people for the rest of their lives. You guys are good people!

You are always in my thoughts and prayers. And thank you again for sharing.

Much love, Desiree

Barefootin said...

Thank you so much!! You are so gifted and this blog has been such a blessing to me. I am amazed at Jay!! You definately don't hear of this kind of love much these days! And as a single woman that has sought after it most of my 33 years it is an inspiration to keep waiting for what God has planned for my life and not to settle!! Thanks and I have been praying for you guys (the whole family) since April and what God has done through all of you!! and I am so excited to watch God work and be here through it (even on the outside)
Also Bridget Jones is one of my FAVORITE movies as well ;)

forever HIS child,
freedom
(friend of Julia Fikse)

Lyndsey Williams said...

Seeing as I had the unexpected honor of meeting you face to face only a few short days ago, (thank you for the delicious meal by the way)I guess it is time that I put on my big girl pants and openly admit that I am now and forever a member of the "Crazy for Kim" Fan Club. I was not joking when I told you the other night that I LOVE your writing. The only thing better than reading one of your entries is the lingering anticipation that settles in when I have finished the most recent and I am forced to wait on the next! Crazy, I know, but then again, I am friends with your middle one... enough said. :)

Faithfully inspiring, emotionally stunning, and consistently and genuinely true are my favorite ways to describe you and your writing. It is strange how putting a pen to paper (or finger to key in your case) stirs something inside oneself, but what is even more strange is how it can stir things inside others, even those we have never met. I used to be one of those "fans from a distance"; however, I was somehow blessed enough to meet you and understand why your writing comes off the way it does. Simply stated, your writing IS YOU. It is everything you feel, know, love, breath, think, eat (I know how yall like to eat). It is you and you are not ashamed of any of it. You are every bit as wonderful as your writing makes you out to be, and I could not go one more blog without letting you know that.

Thank you for letting come over for dinner and see your beautiful home away from home, "The Oasis" as I called it. I am so happy I was able to meet you and your youngest. Most importantly, thank you for having the courage to be honest. It truly matters and makes a difference to people like me. Hopefully I will see you again very soon, but until then, I will keep on readin'if you keep on writin'!

Chi O love from Memphis

ellenpaige said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ellenpaige said...

What a beautiful and amazing testimony to Jay's unconditional love for Katherine and God's unconditional love for His children. Thank you.

Ellen Jones
Athens

Brittany said...

Amazing.... just amazing.

suzirockett@earthlink.net said...

YOU are a continued blessing to me! and I did in another post ask Jay to marry me (ha ha).The love he gives is a witness to all who watch. The gifts you share in your writing is amazing. I pray this day as I do everyday for complete restoration...and glimmers of hope shown to you all every day.

Linda Abney said...

Dear Arnolds,
There are so many ways to exhibit beauty. Katherine's way is the best. It's unselfish, outgoing, generous, comforting, exuberant, gentle, not self-seeking, full of joy and faith. She spreads love wherever she goes. I know that even in these dreadful times(in the eyes of the world) she continues to do the same. Yes, we all believe that her testimony of His faithfulness will go beyond anything we could have ever dreamed or imagined but SHE IS ALREADY DOING that for all who treat her, minister to her, hear of her progress, share with each others how her grace in suffering has encouraged them to keep on keeping on and seeing His love being poured out on others through her. We so wish you could each be nearer to Georgia so we could watch up close His wonder through her and you. But, we cherish the updates and rejoice with each one. When Brooks sent the card with the picture of an empty bed I cried. All I want to receive now is one of an empty wheel chair and walker.
We love you each so much
The Abneys

tatiana said...

dearest kim,
as i write, i'm tryin' 2 dislodge the lump in my throat that always creeps up on me when i read your entries.... woman, u r amazin'! it's unbelievable.... the power of your words.... the power of your luv.... there is a very spiritually powerful force guidin' your hand.... thru u, i place myself in your story, but it is my husband & i who r the lead characters.... we r those 2, young & in luv who have been tested & now know the strength of our unconditional luv.... i am the girl that u described so clearly (or was in n e case).... it's a bittersweet symphony 2 which we dance thru life each day.... grateful 4 all our blessings & sometimes wonderin' wat if? i consider my weddin' rings 2 b my most precious piece of jewelry, yet i can't wear them 'cuz my fingers r 2 swollen from the meds i take (i can't imagine how upset katherine was when hers had 2 b cut off).... now i wear my grandma's antique weddin' set (that was @ the time of her givin' them 2 me on our weddin' day) 2 big on me.... now, i wear them & know (circumstances aside), that it makes her happy 2 c her rings on my finger.... 2 c that never-endin' symbol of luv that she & my grandfather shared (b/f he passed away), placed on my hand & in my heart.... i remember tellin' my husband a few yrs. ago that 4 our 25th anniversary, i wanted an eternity ring (i had even tried 1 on, just 2 see how it looked).... i thought 2 myself that it would mark a very special point in our marriage.... now i think 2 myself (as he helps me 2 bathe & prepares my food & works so hard 2 support us) that every point in our marriage is special, every single 1.... we r truly God's blessed children....
xoxo,
tati

Iva said...

Thank you for writing such a wonderful and moving tribute to Jay who is showing true unconditional love to Katherine and amazing unyielding faith in God. I greatly admire his remarkable strength and extraordinary character which are being demonstrated daily during adversity. Jay is my hero.

I am praying every day for him and Katherine.

Blessings to you,
Iva Wolf McLachlan

georgene said...

Dear Kim
I am one of the many women who read and weep. We have never met and yet I feel intricately part of your family and circumstances. I too am a mother of two grown, lovely young women and the grandmother to a sweet one year old boy. We all reside in the Bay Area and I was introduced to your blog , circumstances and family through a friend. I have in turn introduced others. Would it matter that I can relate because of age and family similarities? For you have soared through your writing to reach and touch the heart of many you have and never will meet, from all positions, life circumstances, age and gender. I have prayed for your Katharine and you and the family and the doctors
and all concerned...from New York to Canada.. to to the Oregon Coast,..on planes and in bed..in my car..at the gym and while walking and hiking.Why is this? This is the miracle of Believing Christians..we are together..a humongous body that we don't even know are there..sharing, caring, encouraging and loving as Christ called us to do. We could never imagine the possibilities of carrying our hearts across miles. continents and circumstances, but the Lord did before the beginning of time!
The Shakespeare Sonnet you shared so touched me..I found it written out by my mother in her things after she was gone. She had faithfully, lovingly cared for her husband for seven years as he lay
semi-paralized from three strokes until the Lord took him home.
You have truly touched me through your transparancy and oh so gifted writings.... "and here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide" ... i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Gigi Usher
San Francisco

Amy said...

So beautiful. Katharine and Jay are so blessed to have a love like theirs. I knew Jay was special when we were friends in junior high school, but even then, I couldn't quite imagine how wonderfully he'd turn out. As a single 26-year-old, who feels VERY MUCH like Bridget Jones (the Christian version), I want a love that lasts, that's bound in Christ, to be part of the cord of three strands that can't be broken.

Thanks for continuing to share with your readers, and Katharine and Jay and you and everyone else are always in my prayers.

Kim Arnold said...

Oh Gigi,

How did you know I love e.e. cummings?

Thank you all for your precious words.

Love, kim

Martie said...

I have followed Katherine's progress for many months now and I'm hopeful that she will fully recover. I know it's a long, difficult journey... My husband also experienced an AVM when he was 43 years old and so I know from personal experience how devastating TBI's can be. But I want to pass on something that I saw in our local newspaper that caught my eye. I immediately thought of Katherine when I saw this. It's a rehab tool called "TheraStride." This tool was not available when my husband had his AVM in 1990. But if you've not had access to something like this, it might be worth checking into. Here's a link that has a video on how it works. It's new to us here in Alabama, but perhaps they have one where Katherine is now.
http://main.uab.edu/Sites/MediaRelations/articles/54390/

smh said...

What a beautiful entry. I can totally imagine the wedding as if I were there. I knew Katherine at Samford, we were sorority sisters. I've never commented on your blog but I've been a dedicated follower from the very beginning. Your family is in my thoughts daily. Honestly, I experience something every single day that makes me think of you or Katherine or Jay or even James, as I have two little boys of my own.

I often think of Jay and wonder how he handles this new reality. I was thrilled to read your words and get a glimpse into his heart. It's nice to have proof that true love really does exist. And, what a blessing for you to know that your baby girl will forever be loved by such a Godly man.

Thank you for sharing your heart...you touch mine everyday.

God is good!

Sara