Love & Sovereignty
There is much talk these days about how life might be different in the future... Perhaps more important is what will not be different, especially in our relationships with each other. We will still need to learn to value our diversity and how to overcome our differences; I will still need to learn how to be loving to you.
At times, that seems like such a huge task. What does it mean to be loving? How can I be loving? But it so often comes down to such simple things as, “Can I value you? Can I be courteous to you? Can I honor you? Can I treat you with integrity?” We think of love as an attitude and at times struggle to have it, but in many ways it is a behavior. It is what we do.
What is the behavior of being loving?
In one of the loveliest Arthurian stories, Sir Gawain, a knight of the Round Table, agrees to marry Ragnall, a most hideously ugly hag, in exchange for her telling the king a secret that will save him from death. The wedding party is held, and all the kingdom has pity for this handsome and gallant knight who is marrying someone so horrible in both appearance and manners.
After Gawain and his bride retire to their wedding chambers, she excuses herself to slip into something more comfortable, while he climbs into bed, prepared to do his conjugal duty with this hag. Then, out from the curtains steps a stunningly beautiful young woman, the “fairest woman in the land.”
Gawain is dumbfounded. “Where is my wife? What have you done to her?”
“I am your wife,” the woman replies. Then she tells how an evil sorcerer had put an enchantment upon her so that she shifted from being rapturously beautiful to being repulsively ugly.
“Now,” Ragnall says to Gawain, “you have a choice. As my husband, you must decide if you want me beautiful by night for your pleasure, and ugly by day, knowing that people will pity you; or beautiful by day, so people will honor you, and ugly by night, which will bring you no pleasure. Which do you want? You decide.”
All husbands should take note of this, for Gawain proves his wisdom as a man and his smarts as a husband. He says, “This is not for me to choose. I want you to be the way you want to be. It is your choice.”
He gives her back her power. Gawain does not try to decide Ragnall’s life for her. He says, “You are the powerful one. It is your choice, not mine.” With that, the spell on her is broken and she is beautiful all the time. He honors her sovereignty, and that frees her to be her true self.
That to me is loving behavior: giving back power and honoring the integrity of another. It is valuing who the other is. That is a behavior that says, “God loved the world, so He (or She) sent you here, too. You are important. I want to honor you because of this importance. I want to honor your sovereignty. I want to treasure who you are.”
---from The Call, by David Spangler
© 1996 by David Spangler
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