There’s something about falling in love that’s beautiful and intricately mysterious—no matter whether you’re falling in love with a person, a book, an idea, a song, a home, or something else entirely. Though the first of these is what usually comes to mind.
And though I’d say I got my first real taste of falling in love of the romantic sort well over three years ago when I met my now husband, I guess I had practice falling in love well before that.
I don’t know if it started with my first book fair, or my desire to have the most Accelerated Reader points (because I knew the one thing I was good at was reading), or even before that as we gathered for family devotions or our parents read to us. I don’t actually know the first moment I befriended a book, but I can tell you the ones that stood out. The ones that are well-worn friends with dog-eared pages that attest to the passage of time and my desire to devour their stories again and again.
My husband was the first person to point out to me that my books are my friends—and the first to mourn with me when a mouse found a box of friends we’d had to put in storage. As I called him, literally in tears over the state of said books, he said, “I’m sorry sweetie, I know your books are your friends.” As funny as that sounded to me then, it makes total sense to me now.
No, it’s not a lonely or embarrassing thing to call a book a friend. I have no shame in calling books friends. These books were there on the lonely days, and maybe that has woven their print deeper into the wells of my heart. But there’s something about a well-written book with authentic, relatable characters that reaches into the depths of one’s soul and settles there.
And as I cried over the loss of one of my favorite characters in a series recently—literally in the last few pages of the book, the series as final as the character’s last breath—I realized that books and their heroes and heroines teach us a lot about falling in love.
Sure, some might argue that the ink-slung heroes and heroines on novel-bound pages build up an unrealistic view of love and happily ever after that keeps us continually wanting in our love lives. To an extent and with many stories, I’m sure that’s true. But that discussion is beyond the scope of my purpose here.
Really, it’s the idea that there are very few books I’ve been willing to read twice—I have a long memory when it comes to my “friends” and their stories—and those I reread are special. Every time I open these books, I fall in love with reading, with the words, the characters, and the skilled author’s heart and pen all over again.
And this is what books have taught me about falling in love. When you realize for the first time how true and deep God’s love for you is, or you meet your person, or taste that new favorite recipe for the first time, or hear the strains of a song that will soon become part of your life’s very soundtrack, your world tilts a little on its axis. But over time, these loves become familiar, comfortable. They become so much a part of our daily routine that we don’t always realize what they represent about true and abiding love.
Sadly, they tend to almost fade into the background because we know them. We know the words and strains by heart. We know they’ll always be there. We know the laugh lines around their eyes, the tones that speak of joy or hurt, and the smile that’s forced versus the one that’s warm and friendly. This is why we call our tried and true recipes—the ones we don’t even need the book for anymore that are stained with spices, oil splatters, and sauce drips—comfort food. But instead of looking at this comfort, this familiarity, this often unspoken trust as love and safety, we tend to scramble along to the next new thing, to search for more. A seemingly endless search for an unreachable satisfaction.
But what if “more” is right here? Exactly where you are right now? Like “x” marks the spot, and we’re standing right on top of it, eyes shaded looking toward the horizon as if the “x” was simply an erasable line in the sand? What if, instead of telling us what’s next, the “x” tells us we have everything we need to live a full and abundant life already in our hands?
As I read again through that favorite series and said goodbye to that beloved character, I realized I’d come back and read the story again even knowing the outcome. Because a story that’s so much a part of your life isn’t meant to be permanently affixed to the shelves; it’s meant to be relived over and over again. Like hugging an old friend or taking the hand of the person you once fell in love with and realizing anew all the reasons you love them, all the reasons they’re a part of your life—and all the reasons you pray that they always will be.
Falling in love isn’t the spark and sizzle and zing of that first time meeting; that’s just the draw, the “hook,” to use a literary term. It’s what grabs our attention but soon after fades into the background as you get to know the characters, the author’s favorite words, and the themes beyond what’s written on the page.
Like any good book, it’s not the hook that builds a lasting love, it’s the dog-eared pages and time-worn edges and crinkles on the cover that invite us to stay in love. Or to fall in love again and again.
The hook is the first trip, but the daily falling is all in the safety of the familiar, always-there friends—the ones who won’t let you hit the ground. Or they at least won’t leave you alone when you do.
When we want to know what it means to fall in love, maybe we look to the books that draw us in again and again. And maybe we begin to understand that where we run for safety, for comfort, teaches us the truest and deepest meaning of the word.
Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.Louisa May Alcott