At the end of my one-way street is an unenviable intersection that, because of the proximity of a traffic light and the lay of the road, sometimes produces a situation in which, if the lane of stopped cars nearest to me opens up to let me sneak through, I am forced into a blind spot with respect to the cars in the far lane coming from the other direction. When that happens, it is madness to proceed, notwithstanding the largesse of the driver granting me the opening.
But today the two men who were offering me passage signaled vigorously with their hands that the coast was clear. I was thus in the position of choosing—do I move or stay? Though I could see nothing of the lane on the opposing side, I had the men’s assurance that no car was approaching. Should I trust them? Are they maniacal sadists luring me into a death trap? Or are they nice guys showing me a kindness? Almost in the manner of a kid holding his nose on the diving board before his first ever plunge into the deep, I pressed the accelerator and sliced through. All was well, and I waved.
In seventh grade we read a short story by Frank Stockton called The Lady, or the Tiger? There was a barbaric king who delighted in a capricious kind of justice that involved placing the accused in an arena before howling crowds, and making him choose between two identical doors in the wall of the arena. Behind one of them was an exquisite maiden, the prize of a lucky choice. (It little mattered to the king whether the man was already married.) Behind the other waited a hungry tiger.
It came to pass in the course of time that the daughter of the king fell madly in love with a young man possessed of that “fineness of blood and lowness of station common to the conventional heroes of romance who love royal maidens.” When the king learned of the romance, he arrested the man and chose for the reward behind one arena door the most beautiful maiden in the kingdom. For the other door he sought out the most ravenous tiger.
The princess arranged a signal with her lover, who amidst the salivating onlookers had eyes only for her. She sat in the stands, knowing which of the doors hid the beast and which the lovely maiden (who happened to be a woman she hated). Finally, the princess lifted her right arm that lay on a cushioned parapet, and ever so slightly motioned toward the right-hand door. Her lover, trusting perfectly, turned and walked toward the indicated door … and there the story ends. (The seventh grade class of Mr. DeHertog erupted in protest.)
Relationship is a risk. We use our best discernment and we may discern wrongly, but we choose to make ourselves vulnerable to being crushed. This is the gift we give to one another. What is the alternative? It is the life of C.S. Lewis’ dwarfs, who so wrap themselves in self-protection that they eventually lose the very ability to feel anything, either joy or pain.
Love “believes all things” (1 Corinthians 13).