Monday, July 1, 2024

Locked in Love?


Picture taken by Aída Besançon Spencer, of the Hohenzollernbrücke Bridge, Cologne, Germany, June 22. 2024 

Sweethearts, engraving their names on a lock, fastening it to a public fence, then tossing the key into a river as a sign of their enduring love sounds charmingly romantic—or  at least it did until an eight-foot Paris’ Pont des Arts Bridge railing collapsed under the weight of thousands of these love locks.

Confronted with literally tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of every kind of lock from petite heart-shaped and glistening-red designer to sturdy, gray security to corroding bicycle locks, spiraling up as high as the tallest love-struck German can reach and as crammed on to each other as can be finagled down the entire stretch of the vast security fence that separated the people’s walkway from the busy train track on the Hohenzollernbrűcke bridge that spans the Rhine River in beautiful Cologne, we stopped amazed, wondering. “How is this wire fence still standing up?”

Our concerns only echo what has been voiced all around the world, as similar locks in a plethora of languages have been fastened in droves on public structures in numerous countries.

How did all this begin? The source credited by many is Frederico Moccia’s romantic novel and the subsequent film “Ho Vaglia di Te” (I Want You, 2006). In that novel, a couple chooses a bicycle lock on a lamppost and the key goes into Rome’s Tiber River. The first locks that we saw on the Hohenzollernbrűcke bridge were reported in 2008.[1] But, appropriately for an Italian novel, the earliest locks were spotted on the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome.[2]

Since then, lovelocks have raised concern in places as distant from the source as the USA’s Grand Canyon, where rangers report the discarded keys are endangering the wildlife that gobble them down, thinking they’re food.[3] While Brooklyn Bridge workers didn’t wait to repeat the Paris disaster but snapped off 11,000 lovelocks, bridge caretakers in Melbourne tackled 20,000 locks to save their bridge, neither of which was a small feat![4]

So, what is this by now 18-year fad really all about? Well, not exactly what Aída quipped when she noticed one lock was a combination lock and surmised that, just in case that love faltered and flickered out, the disgruntled party could simply spin the combination and take it off the fence and wait to use that lock again, if the present names were not too indelible. The rest of the key-less are intended to be permanent.

No, what motivates this expense, which is making the manufacturers and purveyors of locks and keys rich beyond their most exorbitant aspirations, is what everyone wants: a love that will last forever. In other words, what people really want is a love like the one that Jesus’s apostle Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, a love that is patient [and can wait, persevering]; a love that is kind; not envious [competing with the beloved]; not conceited; not arrogant; not behaving improperly, not seeking only the things that matter to oneself; not irritable [or easily angered]; not counting up the wrongs it feels were done to it; not rejoicing with unrighteousness [or wrongdoing], but rejoicing with the truth; always enduring, always believing, always hoping, always persevering. Love never falls [or fails].”

Now, Jesus’s other apostle John tells us that that kind of love only comes from God, because “God is love.” How did God show this love? “The love of God has been revealed among us [by] his Son, the only begotten, God sent into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:8b, 9).

What this tells us is that the eternal love we are seeking is in the only other eternal that we know: the God who created and loves us. So, to find this eternal love we must find it in God.

And what about human love? Solomon, who tried out conjugal love with a vast assortment of women, finally concluded he should have taken Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man leaves his father and his mother and they become one flesh” more seriously than he did, for he recommends, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth,…may you be intoxicated always by her love” (Prov 5:18b-19b NRSV). Jesus highlights this truth when he tells his opponents, “From the beginning, a male and a female, [God] made them and for this reason a human will leave the father and the mother and will be united (joined) to his wife, and the two will become one flesh, accordingly, no longer are they two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no human separate (Matt 19:4b-6).[5]

So, if we want a marriage that lasts, so we don’t have to fish in any rivers for our discarded keys, or for railings that fall under the burdens of life, we need to persist together in God’s kind of love, because that is truly the only kind of love that is eternal.

Bill and Aída

[1] Viking Daily, 6/22/2024, 2.

[2] John Garry, “Stop Leaving Lovelocks at Tourist Destinations. Here’s Why,” www.lonelyplanet,com/news/love-locks-banned-tourist-destinations,” posted 11/7/2023, accessed 6/24/2024.

[3] Dr. Ceri Houl Brook of the University of Hertfordshire, cited in Garry, “Stop Leaving Lovelocks at Tourist Destinations.”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Translation by Aída Besançon Spencer. See further explanation of “one flesh,” Aída Besançon Spencer, William David Spencer, Steven R. Tracy, and Celestia G. Tracy, Marriage at the Crossroads: Couples in Conversation About Discipleship, Gender Roles, Decision Making and Intimacy (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 25-32.

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