“I love you for love’s sake…”

Where it all began…

“I love you for love’s sake…”

I’ve been wanting to tell this part of our love story for years, but am just now getting to it. This is where the marriage chapter of our love story began with my proposal to Debbie…when I asked her to marry me.

What you are looking at here is a picture of the spot where I proposed to her August 11, 1975. We would marry on June 18, 1976.

This is in the Lexington [Kentucky] Cemetery. Yes, I proposed to Debbie in the Lexington Cemetery. Those of you who are familiar with the Lexington Cemetery know that it is not just a cemetery – it is also a park and arboretum of natural beauty and is listed on several historic registers.

Debbie and I had spent many an hour strolling through the cemetery during the months before this. I was pastoring 400 miles away, and so when I had an opportunity to come and visit with her, we would make our way to Lexington cemetery where we could just be quietly together as we admired the beautiful, cultivated landscaping that is one of its distinctive characteristics. During the summertime, as we strolled and conversed together, we would often remark that the rustling of the wind through the leafed branches of the trees was actually the trees ‘clapping their hands’ as they celebrated with us and shared the joy of our newly-awakened and declared love.

The picture is of a small clearing on the bank of one of the small ponds in the cemetery. We had been there before just to sit and talk with one another. It was on this spot right in the center of the picture that we sealed our love commitment to one another.

Back in the day, there was a crabapple tree there. It has since been removed, but it would have stood just to the left of where that first tree is now.

Why a crabapple tree? Well, I was determined that our love story would be as close to a Song of Solomon kind of love story as I could make it. I was reading and meditating a lot in the Song of Solomon. I read in SoS 8.5 [KJV], “I raised thee up under the apple tree…” I also was reading that some commentators speculated that maybe Solomon was reminding his love that it was under this ‘apple tree’ that he had declared his love for her and made his own proposal for marriage. Yes, I know … I also was reading that their ‘apple’ tree was not an apple-apple like we first think of, but rather most probably some kind of citron or citrus tree. But we had none of those within hundreds of miles. And a crabapple tree was the closest ‘apple’ tree I could find, and it was in our favorite spot anyway.

So, a crabapple tree would do! And it did just fine!

So on that day, we went on one of our romantic visits to this familiar spot in the Lexington Cemetery. We parked the car out on the road and walked over the bank of the ‘duck pond’ [as we called them – because there were always ducks on the ponds]. I had my autoharp with me, which was not all that unusual because I would frequently serenade her with songs, some of which I had written to sing to her.

I had written a special proposal song just for this occasion. I titled it “I love you for love’s sake.” That line was very familiar to both of us – and still is.

So that brings up another one of our common interests. We had met for the first time a couple years before when her Dad had invited me to come up from NC to preach in a Youth Conference they hosted in their church. Although it would another year or so before we even began seriously corresponding with one another, from our very first meeting and encounter, we discovered that we both shared a love for poetry, particularly older English poetry/literature. Even when we just ‘buddies forever,’ we would sit up late into the night and read English poetry together and to each other. We kind of had our own little private two-member “Dead Poets Society.”

Later, as our affections began to deepen, our common interests gravitated to the love poetry between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, especially her “Sonnets From the Portuguese.” Her Sonnet 14, “If thou must love me…” was one of Debbie’s favorites:

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say,
“I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day”—
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.

She had sent me this sonnet, insisting that if I was to love her, it must be ‘for love’s sake only’ – and not for any other physical trait, appearance, or characteristic that could change and thus un-work the love that had been professed for its sake. “If thou must love me, let it be for nought except for love’s sake only … But love me for love’s sake, that evermore thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.”  

I was already committed to loving her ‘for love’s sake only.’ And, in fact, I had often sung for her the other old Irish Thomas Moore song:

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly today,
Were to change by tomorrow and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will;
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.

It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear.
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close
As the sunflower turns on her God when he sets
The same look which she turned when he rose.

So I was already all in for loving her ‘for love’s sake only,’ for the beautiful, noble, gracious, godly woman I knew her to be and whom I had come to love so deeply and truly.

But, I have digressed here, I know.

Getting back to the proposal song I had written to sing to her under the crab‘apple’ tree, “I love you for love’s sake”

I wrote these proposal lyrics and sang them to the tune of another love song that was popular at that time, “Eres Tu”:

I love you for love’s sake, Yes, I do! Yes, I do!

I’ll love you forever and a day!

I strive for expression, but all I can say is:

Debbie, Oh, Debbie, I love you!

            I love you! I want to be with you forever-

            I love you! My fairest Dove, my Chosen One,

            I love you!

I no longer doubt it, No, I don’t! No, I don’t!

I’m sure now forever and a day!

I just can’t be happy if you are away,

Because Debbie, Oh, Debbie, I love you!

            [repeat chorus]

I’ll keep you here with me in my dreams – in my dreams!

I’ll keep you forever and a day!

There’s no place so distant as to keep you away,

Because Debbie, Oh, Debbie, I love you!

            [repeat chorus]

I want to take refuge in your heart, in your heart!

And rest there forever and a day!

So, Debbie, I pray thee, do not turn me away –

Because Debbie, Oh, Debbie, I love you!

            I love you! I’ll give you all my love forever –

            I love you! I wait to hear, my Debbie dear,

            “Do you love me, too?”

And so, that day, there in the Lexington Cemetery, I “raised her up under that crab‘apple’ tree” with the words of that love song, and she graciously consented to receive the promise of my ‘love for love’s sake’ and share hers with me.

The crabapple tree may be long gone, but our ‘love for love’s sake’ is going on.

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2 Responses to “I love you for love’s sake…”

  1. Sharon Pinkston says:

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Regina says:

    Absolutely beautiful! You both truly are Blessed. May God Bless You Both Forever and a Day!!! Happy Anniversary ❤️

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