From my assigned seat, through an unacommodating oval snuggled half an inch from my armrest, a spider web of lights glows dimly in the darkness of the night sky. Each light, I think, representing one person in the grander bird’s eye view of the world, and lines of light connecting them. From so high up it feels like we’re all connected somehow, no matter how far apart our lights may shine. There is always a line of light connecting us to each other.
But soon my flight into the metaphysical will have ended and I’ll find myself using an anonymously owned car, staying in a room that has been professionally staged and designed to look like a home, and eating food made by strangers to whom I have absolutely no connection. The lines, from the street view, all break up.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the bonds that tie us together. The bond between husband and wife. The unique bond between daddy and daughter. The special bond between father and son. Even the bond between friends. After all, my wife was once a stranger to me. There was a time when she was a girl living in a foreign country and I was a boy playing in my neighboring woods. And my own children didn’t exist! Now I can’t imagine my life without them. What are these bonds made of? What makes them so strong? Why are they sometimes weak?
They’re worth brawling over
“Bond” can mean a feeling of connection as well as a covenant. I don’t think that’s by chance. Two people meet and fall in love. They pursue each other, until they both decide to only pursue each other exclusively. Marriage is an offering of yourself, mind, body, and soul to the other. It’s more than a willingness though, there’s an eagerness that presses you to give all you can and more. It’s beautiful and results in an endless fountain of joy and pleasure. The bond with your children is unique, too. Here is part of me. Someone I had a part in creating. It’s near miraculous and awe-inspiring. With my daughter, my firstborn, I had a connection with her before she was even born! When my son was born, it was different. I struggled with guilt because the same initial feelings of closeness weren’t there. It caught me completely by surprise. But since he was born, I’ve committed to work on our relationship and I feel just as close to him as I do with my daughter. Now, we are in the process of adopting. Adoption is a promise, too. And even though we haven’t seen a picture of her yet, our next daughter is already a part of our family in so many ways.
I’ve experience enough in my brief lifetime to not look through rose-colored glasses at these strands that hold our lives in place, the chains that are the anchors to the ship of our souls. I thought that I knew what strong bonds looked like. I thought I knew that nothing could ever, ever break them. I was taught, growing up, that some bonds are forever. Part of me still believes this is true, the hopeless romantic in me who aches with the belief that time or distance or pain will never be able to sever what was truly meant to be. But I’ve also seen them shatter, in the lives of those closest to me, time and time again. Sometimes I lose faith in the staying power of these bonds, their ability to bend but not break.
Bonds are never static. We are either spindling new threads around the cords that already exist to strengthen them, or we are slowly filleting them with a knife by selfishness and pride.
What has been damaged by years of pain can still be salvaged by a single thread. If care is taken to add a companion thread to it. These threads are kind thoughts and loving actions. Two threads are stronger than one and have twice the chance of standing up under whatever weight is demanded they hold. And over time, that duo becomes a tri-bond of strength. As more single threads of forgiveness and selflessness get woven around the core it slowly resembles a cord, then a rope, until it is wide and thick like a hawser wrapped securely around the horn cleat on a dock. Strong and enduring from the patience that was displayed in the midst of pain.
I can see that the bonds of love are worth fighting for. They’re worth brawling over. Even when it feels like conversations are equal to throwing combination punches of truth and raw emotion. Words spoken come from the heart, which is both the strongest and weakest place in all the universe.
All of that takes great effort. But if you apply the effort, you may just end up with the rarest of all kinds of unions. Two lives fused together into one beautiful tapestry. A tapestry, braided, interlocked and woven into a brilliant display for others to gawk at, a picture of what true love looks like. A picture full of rips and tears, but also of repairs and restoration. A picture of family.