Monday, August 11, 2014

Better to Love… (A Love Story)

As I’m reading a biography about J. Gresham Machen right now I thought I’d share this blog post. While some may criticize it I happen to think it’s beautiful. We are all meant to love, and in it we experience a small taste of God’s love for us. And what is love anyway if it quickly fades away? “Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8). Love lasts. That’s what makes this story so beautiful to me.

(Original post can be found here.)  

“Better to Love and Lose Than Never Love at All”

J. Gresham Machen never married. Apparently, this is the reason:

“Machen did have a brief romance with Mildred B. Stearns that blossomed in the summer of 1920. He met her at Seal Harbor, where she also vacationed with her family. The major obstacle to their marriage was religion. Stearns was Unitarian…Machen corresponded with her throughout his life and visited her whenever in Boston. Members of Machen’s family say she traveled alone from Boston to Baltimore to attend Machen’s burial service at Greenmount Cemetery,” D. Hart, Defending the Faith (P&R 2003), 130.

“There was however one real romance in his life, though unhappily it was not destined to blossom into marriage…He identified the lady by name, as a resident of Boston, and as ‘intelligent, beautiful, exquisite.’ He further stated that apparently they were utterly devoted to each other for a time, but that the devotion never developed into an engagement to be married because she was a Unitarian. [She] made a real effort to believe, but could not bring her mind and heart to the point where she could share his faith,” N. StonehouseJ. Gresham Machen (Banner of Truth 1987), 318.

Evidently, Machen found himself in a dilemma which some other men have also confronted throughout the centuries: What if the right woman is the wrong woman?

(No doubt some woman have confronted the same dilemma in reverse.)

Of course, Machen could have married another woman. But maybe he felt that would be unfair to his wife. It’s wrong to live with one woman, but long for another.

That’s one of the ways in which the cost of discipleship may manifest itself. In a conflict between love and duty, he put duty above love.

But while he suffered a profound deprivation, it wasn’t a total loss by any means. He met the love of his life. He never got over her. And, evidently, the feeling was mutual.

He knew what it was like to fall in love, be in love, and stay in love. Many men and women have settled for less.

So even in a fallen world, there may, by God’s grace, be rainbows after the storm. Things which make life both bearable and enjoyable, despite the hardships and heartaches here-below. Machen and Stearns were star-crossed lovers. Yet their lives were enriched by that stellar conjunction–when their stars aligned in the summer sky.


I have good reason to think that Machen likely prayed for her very often throughout the rest of his life. I’m sure he desired to see her come to the truth and then to be able to marry her. Why God never affirmatively answered his prayer I don’t know, but knowing the same God he did I’m sure it was still worth it. You may never feel at home again because your heart is elsewhere but that is the price you pay for the richness of loving someone. And it’s worth loving, because God is love. Of course, love God first of all and keep your hope set firmly upon Him, but don’t be afraid to love others for that is the expression of all that God is.

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