If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On. - William Shakespeare
For years I have seen this lovely saying on my Grandma's fridge. I always thought that it was a beautiful picture. Every now and then, I get to thinking about love... hey; we all do at some point. I'm not a big fan of fictional romance and all that, but I do love a true, real life, love story of people in history, to that of my own parents. Having studied different musicians and read biographies of different people, I have found two stories in particular to be quite the interesting comparisons. These stories have a similarity, because both of the couples "fell in love" through their love for music. The love stories are that of Jonathon and Sarah Edwards and that of Robert and Clara Schumann. The major difference in these two stories is that one couple based their relationship on God and the other did not. Both stories are romantic tales, which I enjoyed learning about, but I do have a favorite... I'll share in due time.
In 1723, in the backdrop of British citizens and the thirteen colonies, there was a town called New Haven, and in that town there was a slightly distracted school teacher. This teacher was the twenty year old Jonathon Edwards, and his distraction was the thirteen year old Sarah Pierrepont. He wrote about this young lady in his Greek grammar book.... something I'm very glad he did. But what he wrote about was not silly daydreaming, rather it was about this lass's great love for God. They were very different from each other, but they both loved music. Jonathon Edwards said, "The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other, is by music. When I would form in my mind and idea of a society in the highest degree happy, I think of them as expressing their love, their joy, and the inward concord and harmony and spiritual beauty of their souls by sweetly singing to each other." (1) They became friends and spent more time together talking about life, and God, and sharing books that were influential in their lives. In the spring of 1725 they were engaged. Jonathon waited for two years, until Sarah was seventeen, to marry her. According to Noel Piper, in her book "Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God," this wait was difficult for him, but he endured it anyways in order to honor God. Shortly after they were married, Jonathon got a job as a pastor in Northampton. In total, they had eleven children. I won't go into details on the rest of their lives. Of course, you should read about them anyways as there is much to learn and the preaching of Jonathon Edwards played a big part in the First Great Awakening, so please do some further reading if you haven't already.
The story of Robert and Clara Schumann is a very dramatic love story, filled with trauma and anguish. Robert was a "lawyer-to-be" who in fact, would never be a lawyer because he preferred music over law. Clara was an amazing pianist with a protective father. The two met when Robert began studying music under Friedrich Wieck, Clara's father. When Robert and Clara fell in love, Wieck was furious at the idea of his gifted daughter marrying this poet-musician and he tried to stop them in every way possible. They actually had to take him to court where the judge made Wieck take back many of the untrue statements he had made against Schumann. Robert and Clara won in court, but it took some time before they were actually able to marry.(2) They wrote to each other when they were away and in 1840, they were married. The couple was devoted to each other for life and they had eight children. Unfortunately, later in life, Robert had an ear problem where he constantly heard ringing in his ears. He tried to commit suicide by throwing himself in the Rhine River, but was rescued by boatmen. He lived in a mental institution for the last two years of his life. Once again, there is much more to the story that I have not written.
These two stories are both considered romantic love stories from history. After reading both of these stories, I was thinking about how both couples fell in love with a great love for music as a common thread and suddenly something very important dawned upon me. I was trying to figure out what made these two stories so different, besides the obvious difference in time, place and situation. Then it hit me. While Robert and Clara both loved music, as did Jonathon and Sarah, there was something extremely different about the Edwards. Jonathon fell in love with Sarah because of her great love for God. God was the foundation for their relationship. They both loved music, but they loved God more. As I look at the later lives of these four people, I see that God used the Edwards in mighty ways in furthering His Kingdom. I do not see this in the Schumanns. The Schumanns may have produced amazing music, but they did not do it for God's glory.
I love music. I think music is a beautiful thing, and I love the above Jonathon Edwards quote on music. But that does not change the fact that I love God more. While I think it is a beautiful thing for two people to have a common love for music, I think it is an even greater thing for two people to have a common love for God. The foundation of all our relationships should be God. Obviously, the Edwards were not perfect, only Christ is perfect, but I do think they got it right when it came to matters of love and marriage. They put Christ first in their lives, and it shows.
The foundation of love is Christ. Don't let other earthly things...yes, even music...get in the way or distract you from His perfect love.
Just some thoughts.
1. Piper, Noel. Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God. Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 2005.
2. Smith, Jane Stuart and Betty Carlson. The Gift of Music. Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 1995.
Pictures from Wikipedia.org