Solomon and Wells: Is Love Stronger?
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Song of Solomon 8: 6.
Samuel Wells is the vicar at St. Martins-in-the-Fields in London and a frequent writer for Christian Century. He recently titled his article, “Is Love Stronger.”1 Wells tells the story of visiting with the husband of a wife who committed suicide whom he did not know and hearing their story, then delivering the homily at her service suggesting that all is now well. When he went to visit the husband a week later, he was met with anger about his homily. All had not been well with the woman who had a painful wasting disease and all was not well with her husband. The husband said he told Wells that before the funeral.
Wells said he learned from this experience that when being with people living with tragedy or living in the aftermath of tragedy, all he has to offer is his presence beside them. There are not words to make the situation better, and attempts to clean up the situation do not affirm the difficulty they are facing. Wells believes that his role is “not to make things better for someone. It’s to face the truth with them.” This is what the love stronger than death is. It is presence, not words.
This is also true when we meet with spiritual friends. Trying to see God in any difficult situation often is just listening to our friend’s story and letting them know that we are beside them. We are not there to make things better, but to be a loving presence beside them in a great storm. In times of great tragedy, I remember people who just came and sat beside me and cried with me. Often the person who can best do this is someone who has known a similar tragedy. This is the love stronger than death.
1 Samuel Wells, “Is love stronger?” Faith Matters, Christian Century, April 25, 2018, p. 35.