Sharon May filled the chapel this Tuesday with scientific descriptions, candid relationship advice, tears and giggles.
The speaker chosen by the Center for Relationship Enrichment to spearhead their annual Relationship Week spoke passionately about love—which she emphasized as God’s greatest commandment.
May lived in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa as a child, a small town where her father worked as a civil engineer, helping to build the town, and her mother ministered to pastor’s wives. She described the culture of her youth as that of a third world country.
“We didn’t have TV until the 70s,” May said. “I was only exposed to comic books.”
Significant culture shock set in when the then-high school student moved from South Africa to Pasadena, Cal., where her father accepted a position at Fuller Theological Seminary.
May struggled to fit in and to find a community of friends to support her during those first months. She described her later years at the University of California Los Angeles as filled with similar struggles, ultimately and only resolved when she found a group of close friends.
It was also at UCLA, however, that she began to delve into the academic world of psychology.
“I have always been curious about what makes things tick,” May said.
She was inspired to know more about love. “Why did people fall in love and or stay with someone who was bad for them?” she questioned. This idea and others would encourage further research later on in her life, but not before she experienced an unexpected tragedy.
An unnatural silence filled the Cathedral of the Ozarks as May described the loss of her first husband.
She received a call from a local emergency room asking her to come identify a John Doe who was barely alive.
“I didn’t recognize the face, but as they pulled the sheets back I recognized his feet,” she recalled.
A young widow, May came to the conclusion that love was too painful. She decided independence and self-sufficiency would protect her.
But, as she reiterated throughout her talk, God has placed a need in humanity for love, one that cannot be erased. This little flame, as she described it, kept pestering, kept promoting the benefits of a loving, deep connection.
She advised students not to be consumed with looking for love.
“Focus on becoming, on learning, and one day you’ll look up and there they are,” May said, speaking from experience.
One seemingly average day, May dropped her son off at soccer practice, only to lock eyes with the coach, Mike. “Lord Jesus, this man is drop-dead gorgeous,” she mentally exclaimed. “Am I going to marry this man?”
An instant attraction sparked, and although Mike seemed initially aloof, the two eventually married.
May was careful to caution that not all relationships start that way, though some may. Some begin as friends and are brought closer together through a significant shared experience.
In both situations, May spoke of the importance of a safe haven, or healthy bond. According to the Attachment Theory of John Bowlby, who greatly influenced May and her research, relationships adhere us to one another.
“We spend life trying to make, keep and repair relationships,” May said.
May will be speaking at chapel again today. She will focus on the factors that can negatively impact the formation of a safe haven, such as pornography and premarital sex