Feeling the crisp cool air hit your skin, you look up towards the clear sky scoping for the position of the sun. You take a few moments to think about what the next step is. You bend over to one side to stretch your leg, then to the other side. Jumping up and down a couple of times, you shake your arms and legs loose. You ask yourself: Can I do this? How long can I go for? Will I be able to finish? Should I go fast or must I go slowly? All the answers you affirm to yourself in your head. You know there is no reason not to go now, you are already here. There are many anxieties, but you know only good can come out as a result. You stop thinking; you take a deep breath, take a step forward, and go.
There are many times that we find ourselves in moments of doubt. This can be because of a lack of motivation, a lack of confidence, fear, or even misunderstandings. Every weekend when I go running, it takes a lot of mental preparation throughout the whole week. Not being an expert at running, I still know that there is much that goes into the process. I have always heard, “it is more mental than anything else,” even than the physical part. I rediscover every weekend from the moment I start to the moment I end, I am constantly reassuring myself that I can do it, that the run is good for me, and that it helps me stay fit. Throughout the run I make small goals, saying to myself “I will get to that tree branch” or “I will get over that hill;” and every time I get through the hard parts. I get through the struggle. But to do so I take steps and the steps are small.
Many times we get ahead of ourselves, desiring to accomplish our end goal at once. I know I have struggled with this, especially through the experience of running. We think we can automatically be fit or attain the reward we think we deserve, but things take time. Life is full of activities and adventures which takes time. Each one is a process that requires us to take one step after another.
As we look at love, we also find that we get ahead of ourselves so easily. What is spontaneous and what is attractive to the eye in the moment that we see the good moves us to respond. But sometimes we have the case where a response to the good is done without thinking. One may fail to respond in a way that is best for the other, such as a man responding to a woman or vice versa. There has to be an awareness of what is appropriate here and now. The time might not be right or there is disordered desire involved, but those reasons should not cause the lover to disavow his feelings. Yes, there is an impetus to move, but the movement to respond does not have to be all at once. It takes steps, it takes time. A relationship must grow organically over time, with the lover and the beloved sensitive to its development. This not only helps the one so moved to the beloved to know what he wants, but the time allows for the beloved to respond back to him and for her know what she wants. “For if I truly love and am loved in return, I am simply happy and I do not have to talk myself into my love.” (1) There is a respect for each other’s hearts. Eventually, given that the time is had and the feelings are true, the spontaneity that was once felt in the beginning grows with an abundance of depth in true love for the other. The love is actualized, the love becomes real and unconditional.
We cannot say that true love does not exist when two lovers meet eyes for the first time, but there definitely has to be a period of time for that love to become authentically real between the two lovers. In just the same way that running is a process that requires a level of progression and small steps, so love demands time for organic growth. The reward of a healthy lifestyle comes after gradually training yourself and running one day after another. So too does a mature love depend upon a gradual and organic development of one’s affections and goodwill. Love takes time and if we truly love we will be patient enough to let it grow and it is with that time and small steps that we will see all that we potentially desired from the beginning become real.
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Quotes from Dietrich von Hildebrand’s The Nature of Love. South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 2009. 27