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Two to Tango
The “Weight of Love”: An Image for Authentic Love from St. John Paul II
by Kathleen Billings
As a young college girl seeking God’s will for my life, discerning the vocation He was calling me to, I was immeasurably influenced by the teachings of St. John Paul II, a saint in my time! In particular, his play The Jeweler’s Shop (a love story now made into a movie), had a huge impact on my young impressionable heart. There is one scene in the movie that in particular has always stood out to me. First, let me give you the backdrop.
The story begins in Poland during World War II and symbolically presents to us what is referred to as “the proper weight of man” – the weight of love. The plot focuses on two young couples, Teresa and Andrew, and Anna and Stefan, who are ready to enter the Sacrament of Marriage, both with dreams for their lives and hearts full of love. The couples purchase their wedding rings at a local jeweler’s shop. The Jeweler himself is rather unique, as his purpose in the movie is to represent God. In a poetic, symbolic way, the Jeweler attempts to help each couple realize the weight of their decision to marry and the lifelong commitment they are getting ready to embark upon. Shortly after Teresa and Andrew marry, Andrew dies in World War II, leaving a pregnant Teresa. Concurrently, Anna and Stefan leave Poland for the United States to escape the war.
Fast forward – after many years of a struggling marriage and feelings of guilt for leaving their country and their people, Anna and Stefan are on the brink of divorce. Lies, cheating and ultimately an affair threaten to destroy their marital bond. Anna, feeling hopeless and unnoticed by her beloved, decides to sell her wedding ring back to the Jeweler, who now resides in America. Here is the scene:
The Jeweler examined the workmanship, weighed the ring for a long time in his fingers and looked into my eyes. For a while he was reading the date of our wedding engraved inside the ring. Again he looked into my eyes, put the ring on the scales, then said “This ring does not weigh anything, the needle does not move from zero and I cannot make it show even a milligram. Your husband must be alive – in which case neither of your rings, taken separately, will weigh anything – only both together will register. My jeweler’s scales have this peculiarity that they weigh not the metal but man’s entire being and fate.”
Wow! What a powerful, unforgettable moment in a movie filled with wisdom that married couples can glean from. We are shown that the weight of love in marriage takes two hearts to move the scale. One spouse alone does not carry the weight of the martial bond. Instead, it takes both spouses to create measurable love visible for others to witness. In complete despair, Anna felt as if her love for Stefan was dead. In attempting to sell her ring, she realizes that her love for him is still very much alive but she was bearing the weight of it alone. Her wedding ring, symbolic of her lifelong commitment to Stefan, was worth nothing apart from Stefan’s wedding ring. It is only when both rings come together in proper union that the proper weight of man, and the mystery of sacrificial love, is made known.
What is the weight of your marriage? Does it feel like your lifting weights at the gym, knowing full well that all the hard, intentional effort you are putting in is making your marriage stronger? Does it feel as if you are dragging a dead weight around? Do you feel somewhere in the middle?
Marriage requires daily effort. Some days certainly require more effort than others and then there are those seasons that you seem to coast along until something happens that tips the scale of your love, threatening to throw it off balance. The beautiful thing is that we all have that special Jeweler in our lives that desires the rings we wear to have authentic, deep value. Our Jeweler – God – wants the wedding rings that we wear to truly be an outward sign of our internal commitment to love our spouse, even when the scale tips and we feel as if we are bearing all the weight of love alone. God’s shop is always open for us! When the burdens of life threaten to destroy your marital love, visit your Jeweler! He will measure the weight of your love and put things back in proper perspective, sending you on your way with the sacramental grace necessary to stand on the scale as two hearts united as one.