The Boundless blog is a collection of unique voices addressing the issues young adults care about right now – everything from dating and faith to current events.
After years of researching relationship statistics, studying principles for godly relationships and analyzing what the opposite sex is thinking (or attempting to), it sometimes seems as if I've reduced dating and marriage to a sterile series of rules and decisions. In recent years, I've veered toward viewing relationships in a depressingly pragmatic way: Find someone with godly character and as little baggage as possible and make a choice to intentionally pursue marriage with that person.
While intentionality is good (and I'll address this more in depth in a future blog), part of me is sad that I've developed such low expectations for romance. I believe this is, in part, due to a misunderstanding of God. Consider the following question: Is God interested in romance or did He create marriage as a pragmatic arrangement?
There are some stories in the Bible that seem to hint at God's romantic nature. When Isaac meets Rebekah, for example. Abraham sends his servant to retrieve a wife for his son. And through a strange turn of events (which involves an extensive camel-watering episode), God leads the servant to Rebekah. There's undeniable romance in the conclusion of this tale. Isaac sees Rebekah. Rebekah sees Isaac. Sparks fly. And:
Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
Song of Solomon offers a blush-worthy description of physical attraction. You find bona fide "girl talk" in Ruth. And it's pretty romantic when King David intentionally seeks out the virtuous Abigail after her husband has died. God is clearly into romance. The very scenario of Him sending His Son to be our sacrifice and ultimately our bridegroom speaks of His romantic nature.
Why is it then, that the longer I wait, the more inclined I am to believe I must leave romance out of the mix? Michael Lawrence and I have both downplayed the importance of attraction. Addressing this issue is a fine line, simply because the way the world defines "romance" is different from the committed and sacrificial romantic love advocated by the Creator.
We can be easily tricked into believing attraction is eyes meeting across the room in an electric jolt. When, in actuality, romance is more in line with Boaz hearing of Ruth's outstanding character, noticing her in the field, pouring out special favor on her, protecting her from his men and ultimately becoming her kinsman redeemer. As you can see, the second romantic scenario contains far more substance than the first.
I recently saw a video about Iraqi believers receiving the Bible in their own language for the first time. One woman equated receiving the Bibles to an Iraqi saying that went something like this: "I thought that when I saw my beloved, I would experience the greatest happiness possible. But now that he is here with me, that happiness is exceeded." It's a beautiful picture of romance and so very powerful when you consider this woman's joy at receiving God's Word. God is into romance.
While it's important to guard against worldly, unrealistic standards of romance (Do you think those Seattle doctors are seriously happy anyway?), it is exciting to know that God established romance and celebrates it. Romantic love may appear in ways unanticipated, but at its source it flows from God's character.
I found the one my heart loves. — Song of Solomon 3:4
You must be logged in to comment.
Sign In or
Comment by Jo:
Great post. Thanks Suzanne. :)
Comment by JT:
Note to all: Stop trying to understand the opposite sex. That tactic has about as much chance of succeeding as you finding Elvis alive on another planet.
Comment by Judy:
I agree with JT. It's almost impossible to figure out what the other sex is thinking or what will happen with them. I recommend reading this book "Lessons About Life Mamma Never Taught Us". It's from the perspective of three different generations in a family and their takes on life and love. Basically the end conclusion is to just do what is right for you.
But don't give up on romance!! It's what makes life so fun :]
Comment by Lauren:
Wonderful post! I also developed very low expectations for romance. I think after being single for what seemed like a long time in my eyes, I lost hope in ever finding someone, especially someone who I connected with spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It seemed too good to be true or possible. However, there was something inside of me that could not let go of that childhood fantasy about meeting my prince, falling deeply in love, and living happily ever after. There were a few men who pursued me in college and although they had godly character, there was just something missing. Our personalities just didn't connect and I just didn't "feel" anything for them. This of course sent me into a panic! Was I throwing away an opportunity to have the marriage relationship that I claimed to desire so much? If I agreed to enter into a relationship with them would I be condemning myself to a relationship without any romance or connection? Needless to say I chose not to enter into a relationship with any of these men for a few reasons. 1) Marriage is difficult for everyone, but it must be much easier to find the motivation to fight for a passion filled, romantic relationship. 2) God is not mechanical. He is full of passion, emotion and yes romance. 3) My relationship with God is one of great passion and conviction, and if my marriage is supposed to reflect that than it to should be mainly characterized by its passion and conviction.
I am happy to say that I have now been in a courtship/dating relationship for four months now and it is full of joy, romance and passion that only seem to grow with time. In fact the joy is so strong that my friends and loved ones say that I am actually glowing. I can't help but smile when I talk about him, which makes everyone around me smile. Our love and joy actually seems to be contagious, and bear witness to the love, joy, and faithfulness of our Lord and Savior. I will say that it is not always the stuff of movies, but it is so much better than that!
Yes he is handsome, but it is his character that has my stomach doing flip flops. The way he listens, encourages, provides, and always points me back to the love of Christ is what has my pulse racing. And although he tells me that I'm beautiful, I love it more when he encourages me for being generous, or kind, or disciplined, or patient.
He really does make me want to be more like Christ and he can see Christ working in me and if that is not romantic than I don't know what is.
So my encouragement is to hold out for true romance. Our God is not mechanical and our love lives shouldn't be either. They should be just as passion filled, exciting and challenging as our relationship with our miraculous Savior!
Comment by brx:
Just because YOU haven't been to Saturn... doesn't mean Elvis ain't rockin' out there. Haven't y'all heard? - Elvis is everywhere! :P
Has anyone noticed that when we stop looking at people with an eye for what we can get from them (ie, a marriage partner), then they can be seen for the amazingly unique creations of God that they are -- and then romance starts to show up everywhere!
I think that's what that anonymous person meant when they said you tend to find romance when you stop looking for it.
Grace, peace & adventure to you
Comment by Mandy:
I have enjoyed both previous posts in this series, but I LOVE this one! It's so easy to get caught up in all the rules or become cynical after waiting a long time without meeting the right one. Looking back at the Biblical accounts of love stories is a great reminder that God really does take an interest in romance.
Comment by ATiredLonelyTwentysomethingWoman:
I agree with Suzanne's post that God does not factor romance and passion out of relationships. But how does one continue hope after watching family and friends date and get married around you, while you can't meet a Christian person with substance and character. Guys my age always see me as the great friend and nothing more, and men decades older than me seem to approach me 99% of the time and with lust in their eyes. At this point, I'm starting to wonder if my best best is to save up to buy my house and pick out three dogs I want to live with me there....
Comment by Johnny:
Lauren, you said:
"My relationship with God is one of great passion and conviction, and if my marriage is supposed to reflect that than it too should be mainly characterized by its passion and conviction."
Thank you so much for this bit of wonderful insight; it has encouraged me a great deal.
Even though I'm a college guy, this whole topic really hits home. For some time, I have idled in the no-man's-land between hopeless romanticism and wondering if it's even possible. One thing's for sure: I yearn for it more and more every day. Now it's time to take some of these new thoughts/ideas to the Lord. I can't wait for Him to bring me out of no-man's-land.
Comment by AdamSloope:
Thank you Suzanne! I’m excited to see a woman of God take the idea of God being so predictable and jagged. I often say to people that God is not a dot to dot kind of God but he moves more like a wave length. Everything is smooth and beautiful. The great thing about dating and romance is the mysterious part. So many Christians think that dating is something wrong, but in all actuality if they intend to find their companion it is necessary. I think God puts all the pieces together, but it is def plausible for us to miss out on opportunities because we put God in a box. Faith is hope in the unseen (Hebrews) and with Love and romance there is a lot of unseen things, often Christians want to make sure everything is in line before they take a step. Joshua actually had to put his foot into the Jordan river before its water stopped. God didn’t pull out His play book and say, “Look, this is what will happen and long as you do everything the right way.” God requires us to have faith and step out. In dating if we think God is predictable and unromantic we limit ourselves to a companion and limit our view of God. Song of Songs is a great book to illustrate how much God is into romance.
By the way a great book to read that carries a lot of these thoughts is Sex God by Rob Bell. I read it and think it is amazing. It is not a dating book or a sex manual, but it opens up a lot of things that can be brought into the Christian dating world.
Comment by Childlesssinglewoman:
Tired, lonely 20-something woman... Remember that the Bible says we should not be yoked with unbelievers. This does not automatically mean "church-goers". Adding more to the Bible than what is actually there causes no end of problems (ie. the "gift" of singleness!).
I would suggest broadening your outlook to believing men in the world. You will be very pleasantly suprised by what you discover. Scratch the surface of many an appparently "worldly" man, and you will often find a man who believes in God, prays, would identify himself as a Christian, but...has been alienated by our culture's perception of "church".
The Bible tells us to go forth and multiply. I would suggest you go prayerfully, go carefully, and go with widsom. But don't be afraid to go out into the world to be found by a Godly man!
Dear A Tired Lonely Twenty Something Year Old Woman, I can only say that I know where you are coming from and I empathize with your situation. All I can say is take courage in the fact that the men around you see the qualities that make you wonderful friend, which probably means you are a woman who is of great character, who is fun to be around. Those are also the qualities that will make you an excellent wife. Continue to grow and nurture those things about you and pray that God will awaken the appropriate man to your beauty and will give him the courage to pursue you. In the meantime try not to put your life on hold and find as much joy as you can in your single years, because they are valuable and you will definitely miss aspects of them when they are gone.
Comment by Carrie:
" . . . and then romance starts to show up everywhere!"
Oh, how true that is!! I seem to be coming across it unexpectedly lately. Not that certain recent events mean anything, but the Lord is softening my heart and giving me joy.
Comment by tiredlonelytwentysomethingwoman:
childless single woman:
Just so you know, I'm talking about people in my life who REALLY ARE Christians, and not just churchgoers. I do understand how to recognize a tree by its fruit. the men that do approach are unbelievers, therein which lies my frustration. It seems like when you have standards, no one wants to talk you. And btw, those standards are not starting with whether or not the person is a REAL CHRISTIAN---those are PREREQUISITES. I will not, now or ever, consider unsaved men as candidates for a relationship. PERIOD. I would rather settle for a single, celibate life than to be married to an unbeliever or someone who is not striving for spiritual growth and maturity as a Christian.
And please don't tell me to go out into the world--I've been doing that for four years--pursuing a deeper relationship with the Lord and growing as a person, and still nothing. I'VE HAD ENOUGH with people telling me to "wait on God", while they enjoy the comforts of their relationships. At this point, it seems that I just shouldn't bother...
Comment by Stephanie:
For me, my main goal in life is not marriage; for some it is and that is fine -- but I think for me it is good to have other goals and pursuits in life because meeting "the one" is not entirely within my control. For now, I want to focus my energy into having friendships, developing my gifts, caring about the lost, and spending time alone with God in prayer. I feel that marriage is something that will come later in life for me, since that is not where my focus is right now, and I am grateful not to be in a relationship right now so I have the freedom to go wherever God wants me to. There is a lot to be said for singleness, whether temporary singleness or if I decide to remain single for life and stay devoted to serving God without competition. I believe that that is very biblical and often neglected.
made with ♥ by Boundless