Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valentine for Sarah Pierrepont

Believe it or not, I like some of my college textbooks enough that I dragged them all the way to Vietnam, reserving for them precious space in the four suitcases we carried with us. One of these books is an anthology of early American literature. I was flipping through it recently and happened upon a scrap of paper tucked between the pages. On the paper I had written the name of a bridal shop, a phone number, address, and appointment time. My curiosity was piqued. What was I reading nearly a decade ago on the eve of marriage? What was worth marking for posterity with a Post-It?

I glanced down the page to the section break. The essay I had marked was a tribute to a young lady written by Jonathan Edwards in 1723. It was found scratched on a blank page in a book. Apparently even the venerable Edwards got distracted from his reading once in a while. The young lady who had captured his attention was Miss Sarah Pierrepont. Five years later she became Mrs. Jonathan Edwards. This is what Edwards had to say in praise of Sarah:
...if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct... She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this Great God has manifested Himself to her mind. (from Sarah Pierrepont by Jonathan Edwards, Norton's Anthology of American Literature, vol. 1, page 452)
Imagine what it would feel like to know someone had written this about you--written it never to be read on a random page of a random book just because he couldn't get you off his mind. As I read it again this evening, I was struck by the absence of any reference to Sarah's appearance or education or social position. Edwards was captivated by her character. He valued what was most valuable and what would only gain worth with age and maturity.

This left me wondering... If I were to scribble a description of Daniel on a blank leaf of a book, what would I write? What endears him to me? A blog is a far cry from a hidden page in a bedside book, so I will not make any lists here. It's worth pondering, though. What do we value in our loved ones? What makes them dear to us? Do we treasure the things that are truly of great worth? It's a question worth asking.

Photo: Christmas ornament in afternoon light, January 2009

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