|Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)|
What is romance? A lot of people picture it as hearts and flowers and that tingly sensation in the pit of the stomach. It can be that unspoken attraction between two people before they even really meet each other. A glance across a crowded room. A touch of a hand that sparks something unexpected.
For Sir Percival Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel, it was a glance across a room that started his inexplicable infatuation with Marguerite St. Just. He knew nothing of her, not really even her name when he first encountered her. Only that she was the sister of a man he happened to save because that's what Percy does . . . he saves people. It is the perfect moment of love at first sight for any romantic dreamer.
Yet, in rewatching my beloved Pimpernel, I began wondering about something. Percy, despite his absolute adoration of Marguerite, is also unyielding and unforgiving when he thinks she has betrayed a man to his death via Madame la Guillotine. Most people would inquire of Marguerite as to whether the rumors were true, but not Percy. Instead, he chooses to believe that they are true. He believes that the woman he loves could be so utterly heartless as to cause someone's death. This shockingly upsetting realization sent trepidation through me. Could it be possible that Percy is not as perfect as I imagined him? Horrors, what a notion!
Percy finds it hard to forgive. He literally torments his sweet Marguerite for months on end by withholding his affection from her, withholding his true self from her and constantly hiding behind the foppish mask he uses as a disguise. He is perhaps, dare I say it, cruel to his wife upon suspecting her as being guilty of anything less than perfection. This led me to a further thought. Whatever made Percy suppose that Marguerite was perfect? Oh, she is not guilty of sending anyone to the guillotine, but she is still just a woman and will make silly mistakes. Percy assumes a role he was never meant to assume, that of Marguerite's judge.
|A moment of Percy's cruelty to Marguerite.|
The stunning conclusion to my line of thought is that even the most idyllic romance is still far from perfect. Marguerite, in her absurd moment of self-sacrifice, refuses to defend herself because she insists Percy should believe her without her defending herself. And Percy, he refuses to dig into the facts of Marguerite's role in the deaths in France because he assumes that he knows the truth already. These two people make up one of my favorite romantic couples in all of literary history, yet they still lack the communication necessary to create that perfect romance that men and women alike desperately yearn to experience.
Does that mean there is no perfect romance? That true love is only a fairy tale of thinner substance than the air? Of course not. It does, however, mean that we are looking for true love in all of the wrong places. If you and I are looking for a person who will never betray us, never hurt us, never reject us, then we're going to be sorely disappointed because there is no such perfect person. At least, there is none now.
Once upon a time, there was a Man who sacrificed everything, His very life, to save the entire world. And He knew exactly what kind of evil thoughts and desires resided in every human heart, but He chose to love each and every one of us anyway. Percy was stunned to think that his beloved Marguerite was less than perfect. Jesus Christ is never stunned at our imperfections because he knows about them before we do. When He shared the last supper with His disciples in Matthew 26:27-28, Jesus said of the wine, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins." He didn't say all because He knew that not everyone would accept it, but he didn't say few either. The forgiveness is offered to many, to anyone who will reach out and accept it.
|A stolen moment of passion and forgiveness.|
Think of John 3:16. This is probably the most recognized Bible verse in the entire world, known even by people who only went to Sunday school because their grandmother dragged them. It reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." Simplicity itself, yet so easy to ignore. But it is verse 17 that always speaks to my heart, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." God knows all of the evil thoughts we have, all of the evil things we've done, yet He still sent His Son to die on a cross to save us, not to condemn us. And Jesus obeyed out of love. He offers us a way out. Percy inevitably reaches a point of knowing that Marguerite isn't guilty and the relationship can heal. God knows that we're guilty and He sent Jesus anyway.
I will always love The Scarlet Pimpernel. But now I know it a little better I think, for these considerations about the very humanity of Percy and Marguerite. If anything, Percy proved to me that he is still just a man. He is a great, loving, and heroic man, but still only human and therefore prone to human frailties. I don't love him any less for being what he is, but it was also refreshing to come full circle, back to the knowledge that even if there is no such thing as the perfect romantic relationship, there is such a thing as a perfect love.
Percy loves Marguerite to the best of his human ability, and he loves her mightily. But Christ loved me, and you, enough to sacrifice Himself on the cross, not thinking we were perfect and worthy of His sacrifice, but knowing that we weren't. Now that, my friends, is true love.
As men go, however, I'll take a Sir Percival Blakeney any day!
Remember to submit your answers to my Scarlet Pimpernel Quotation Challenge and GIVEAWAY! I'll post the winner tonight around 8pm MST so get those answers submitted. A free Ivanhoe DVD is a lovely prize, if I do say so myself . . . which I do. *winks*