Love without a Net

Anne Morrow was shy and delicate. Butterfly like.

Not dull or stupid or incompetent, just a quiet specimen of timidity. Her dad was ambassador to Mexico when she met an adventurous young fellow who visited south of the border for the U.S. State Department. The man was flying from place to place promoting aviation. Everywhere he went he drew capacity crowds. You see, he had just won $40,000 for being the first to cross the Atlantic by air. The strong pilot and the shy princess fell deeply in love.

When she became Mrs. Charles Lindberg, Anne could have easily been eclipsed by her husband’s shadow. She wasn’t, however. The love that bound the two together for the next forty-seven years was tough love, mature love, tested by triumph and tragedy alike. They would never know the quiet comfort of being an anonymous couple in a crowd. The Lindberg name didn’t allow that luxury. Her man, no matter where he went, was news, forever in the limelight . . . clearly a national hero. But rather than becoming a resentful recluse or another nameless face in a crowd of admirers, Anne Morrow Lindberg emerged to become one of America’s most popular authors, a woman highly admired for her own accomplishments.

How? Let’s let her give us the clue to the success of her career.

To be deeply in love is, of course, a great liberating force and the most common experience that frees. . . . Ideally, both members of a couple in love free each other to new and different worlds. I was no exception to the general rule. The sheer fact of finding myself loved was unbelievable and changed my world, my feelings about life and myself. I was given confidence, strength, and almost a new character. The man I was to marry believed in me and what I could do, and consequently I found I could do more than I realized.

Charles did believe in Anne to an extraordinary degree. He saw beneath her shy surface. He realized that down in her innermost well was a wealth of wisdom, a deep, profound, untapped reservoir of ability. Within the security of his love she was freed—released—to discover and develop her own capacity, to get in touch with her own feelings, to cultivate her own skills, and to emerge from that cocoon of shyness a beautiful, ever-delicate butterfly whose presence would enhance many lives far beyond the perimeter of her husband’s shadow. He encouraged her to do her own kind of flying and he admired her for it.

Does that imply she was a wild, determined, independent wife, bent on “doing her own thing,” regardless? Am I leaving that impression? If so, I’m not communicating clearly. Such would be an inaccurate pen portrait of Anne Morrow Lindberg. She was a butterfly, remember . . . not a hawk.

Make no mistake about it, this lady was inseparably linked in love to her man. In fact, it was within the comfort of his love that she gleaned the confidence to reach out, far beyond her limited, shy world.

We’re talking roots and wings. A husband’s love that is strong enough to reassure, yet unthreatened enough to release. Tight enough to embrace, yet loose enough to enjoy. Magnetic enough to hold, yet magnanimous enough to allow for flight . . . with an absence of jealousy as others applaud her accomplishments and admire her competence. Charles, the secure, put away the net so Anne, the shy, could flutter and fly.

Isn’t this the essence of that finest essay ever written on love . . . the sine qua non of true agape?

Love . . . is kind, never jealous . . . never haughty or selfish. . . . If you love someone you will be loyal . . . no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best . . . always stand your ground defending him (or her). (1 Corinthians 13 TLB)

It’s a lot like Roy Croft’s words:

I love you, / Not only for what you are
But for what I am / When I am with you.

I love you, / Not only for what
You have made of yourself
But for what / You are making of me.

I love you, / For the part of me / That you bring out;
I love you, / For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over /All the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help / Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out / Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked / Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make / Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern / But a temple;
Out of works / Of my every day
Not a reproach / But a song.1

Have you a fragile butterfly who needs reassurance, room to become, space to spread her wings outside the cocoon of fear and timidity? Is she in need of realizing she has color all her own, and beauty and grace and style to be appreciated beyond the fence surrounding your own garden? Are you generous enough to put away the net and let others enjoy her too? She’s the Lord’s, you know . . . not your possession. And since that is true, if you release her to spread her lovely wings for His glory, she won’t fly away forgetting and forsaking her roots. She will flutter and flourish, adding dimensions of delight you would never otherwise know.

But if you’re not careful, fellow husband, you’ll be so busy flying from place to place yourself that you won’t stop to appreciate that shy, delicate thing of beauty God has given you. You will forget she lives in the cocoon eclipsed beneath the shadow of your life . . . still, silent, looking very much like a butterfly in flight, but feeling more like a specimen under glass.

  1. Roy Croft, “Love,” quoted in Jack Mayhall, Marriage Takes More Than Love (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978), 47.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “Love without a Net,” in Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Portland, Ore.: Multnomah, 1983), 66–68. Copyright © 1983 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

About the author

CharlesS

Charles R. Swindoll

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs around the world. Chuck’s leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry.

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