Padlocks of love and commitment
A Christian Science perspective: Does the sentimental tradition of placing a padlock on a bridge to symbolize one person's love for another hint at something more important?
If any proof were needed that many people long for committed, faithful relationships, a number of bridges in European cities – and elsewhere around the world – currently provide abundant evidence. In a trend that reportedly began in Rome a few years ago, padlocks, some with initials, some plain, have been secured on the ironwork of bridges, mostly by young couples, as symbols of hope and intention that their commitment to each other will last.
Some of the most famous bridges in Europe, including some over the Seine in Paris, are now noticeably crowded with thousands of these locks. And although there has been voicing of disapproval or action taken by municipal officials in a few cities, most have done little to remove the locks or discourage their placement.
While this tradition might be regarded by some as quaint, sentimental, or merely profitable for people who sell locks, I believe that it hints at something more important.
In an age when it sometimes seems that transitory, unstable relationships have become the norm, this practice shows an appreciation of commitment and fidelity. It also may be at least an indication of a move toward countering the “hookup” trend – the practice, prevalent on college campuses in the United States, of young people forming physical relationships without any emotional commitment.
The Bible assures us that faithfulness, sincerity, and commitment in relationships are essential components of growing spiritually toward realizing our place in the kingdom of heaven. And, while it is ambiguous as to whether those who place locks on bridges are married or intend to marry, the spirit behind the institution of marriage – that of lifelong commitment – is certainly being affirmed symbolically. Perhaps the word “wedlock,” a synonym for marriage which happens to bear a verbal similarity to the word “lock” or “padlock,” hints at the quality of everlastingness expressed by those who feel moved to secure locks on bridges.
From a Christian Science perspective, what does it take to attain this goal of fidelity and commitment? Although putting a lock on a bridge requires only a little time and effort, to truly demonstrate faithfulness and commitment over a lifetime requires much more. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, devoted a chapter to the subject of marriage in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” and she included articles on the subjects of fidelity and wedlock in her book “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896.” She says in an article titled “Fidelity,” “Only by persistent, unremitting, straightforward toil; by turning neither to the right nor to the left, seeking no other pursuit or pleasure than that which cometh from God, can you win and wear the crown of the faithful” (p. 340).
Does this sound rigorous and demanding? Fortunately, we’re not alone in the endeavor. God, divine Mind, is always with us, helping us live His laws, guiding and inspiring us to choose the path that will lead to freedom and fulfillment.
Quoting Jesus’ apostle Paul, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “ ‘Work out your own salvation,’ is the demand of Life and Love, for to this end God worketh with you” (Science and Health, p. 22). But what if you feel you could do a better job of expressing loyalty and commitment in your life or know someone who has taken a different path and is experiencing challenging consequences? God, divine Love, is right there, helping each individual to realize and live more of the good derived from divine Principle, God, until the divine standard has been demonstrated.
After all, it’s not only marriage that requires commitment and fidelity. What about other relationships, such as being a good friend, a good son or daughter, or other relative? Are these relationships characterized in our lives by reliability, or do we work at them only when it’s convenient or advantageous? And then there is the question of loyalty to an ideal or a cause, or to God Himself. Christ Jesus identified this endeavor as of utmost importance: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment" (Mark 12:30).
Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the subject of faithfulness is the extent of God’s faithfulness to us. The Bible indicates that His closeness to us is like that of a marriage in its oneness and in His faithfulness to us. In the book of Hosea, God is quoted as saying: “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19, 20).
It sounds like it would require a lot of locks on bridges to demonstrate that kind of love!