Several years ago, my husband introduced me to the book The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is an odd story upon first reading, but it has a lot of layers to it – aspects of the story function as parables or fables, communicating something much deeper than what may appear to be on the surface.
One story involves the Prince describing “his” rose, to his friend the fox:
But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.
Though presented in a rather unconventional manner, his relationship to the rose is a representation of true love, and the bond that forms between two people who are truly in love. The prince loves his rose, not because she is the only rose out there. And yet, as he mentions in another part of the book, she is “unique in all the world” to him.
I was reminded of that while talking with D this morning, and as we talked, a verse from Proverbs 31 (29) came to mind:
“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
Unfortunately, I think it’s too easy to read this as an objective statement. That there is a certain hierarchy or ranking of women, and this woman just happens to be on top because of all the good things she does. No doubt her character and deeds are admirable, but this statement is something that her husband has said of her.
I thought about that in terms of my own husband. There are many reasons why I love him. He is kind and loving, he is hard working, he loves people and serves them with a true servant’s heart, and he is generous and protective of his family. I could go on and on. And while I love him for all those things, I also love him because he is my husband. My love for him does not depend on some kind of “ranking” of his traits or qualities against other men. There are many other men who are good too (and a lot who are worse), but he is unique in all the world to me, and I love him for that. And I know he sees me the same way.
This kind of idea isn’t always encouraged. I’m reminded of a dating site I’ve seen ads for, called “plenty of fish.” It goes with the idea that is often spoken, especially after a break-up: “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” It doesn’t sound like a heinous idea on the surface, but I really think it contributes to a de-valuing mindset in regards to people. They’re just fish. There are lots of them out there, and available to sift through or peruse at your leisure. By the basic principles of mathematics, you will find another one soon that might be acceptable, so don’t worry.
There are indeed plenty of people out there. Many of them have very good qualities. Just like the prince knows there are millions of other roses besides his rose. So if you or I were to say that our spouse “surpasses them all,” it is not meant as an insult to anyone else’s spouse, because it’s not a competition or hierarchy, and it would be silly and wrong to portray it that way – it’s about loving the person for who they are, learning about them, investing time and energy into being with them even during mundane times that no one else would pay attention to – even, as the prince says, when they say nothing.
There are many who do noble things, but my husband is unique in all the world to me. When I tell him that he surpasses them all, I am not putting anyone else down, because I simply am not looking at anyone else that way. He is mine and I am his. And if you are married, the same is true of your spouse too. Let them know it.
This was originally published on my Blogger site in May 2013.