I open my apartment door to a dim room lit by the gentle flames of candles. Tealight candles are strung along the windowsill, kitchen counter, and floor. I step onto a path of red rose petals. The sweet sound of Monica's "For You I Will" surrounds me. I freeze in awe and delight. My boyfriend stands behind me, and his voice brings me out of my daze. He lets me know there is more to discover. He guides me to different spots throughout my apartment. I feel like I am gliding. At each station, I see candles arranged in a letter of my name and a handwritten note with roses placed near it. The notes reminisce moments we've spent laughing and playing. They open up memories of challenge and obstacle while also pointing to joy and beauty.
After following the path of roses to the last spot, I have my back turned to him, reading the last handwritten letter which contains promises of commitment and love for the future. Overcome with feelings too grand for words, I place the letter down and turn to embrace him. But, he is bowed on one knee, holding out a ring. I am numb and want to burst at the same time. He asks for marriage–for us to display the union between Jesus Christ and the church and to represent the eternal love and sacrifice of God. I say yes and accept the ring, willing to start this new journey in covenant relationship together. Finally, we embrace, and our exuberance brings us to the floor where we talk, share our favorite cookies, and sip on champagne into the night. Through this romantic display, I feel seen, cherished, and pursued. But, in my soul, I know it is only a snapshot of the love experienced in covenant relationship with God.
Cuffing season is here. With romance in the air, it is a time when people desire to be in relationship. Now, during a pandemic, these desires are heightened since more people have been confronted with loneliness in quarantine. As we scroll past proposal stories and relationship hashtags that fill our social media accounts, our desires to be seen, cherished, and pursued are exposed. When these feelings arise, it is important to have a gospel-centered understanding of the romance for which our hearts long. Our desires are a gift and are instrumental in leading us to the only One who can satisfy.
What is romance? Is it a warm and gooey feeling? Is it excitement and butterflies in the stomach? Is it flowers, chocolate, and candles? These ideas are our modern view of romance, but traditionally, the earliest use of the word "romance" described a literary genre which originated in medieval Europe. A romance was a story telling the chivalrous feats of a hero. The main character was on a zealous quest to defeat evil, save people, and accomplish good. The hero, who possessed noble or royal status, may have pursued romantic love, but such action was not necessary for this form of literature.
Based on this literary definition, along with historical narrative, poetry, testimonial, prophecy, and epistle, the Bible can also be categorized as a romance. All of Scripture tells of the great story of redemption. The narrative of God pursuing a rebellious people for their salvation is the ultimate romance. This story is not some medieval fairytale but has roots in the eternal plan of God and has actualized in history. Jesus is the true hero. Son of God, Jesus gave up His divine status and took on human flesh to carry our burdens and die as a payment for our sins. In His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus defeated evil and broke the curse of sin. He saved us from judgment and brought us into the love of the Father. He has given us His righteousness, new life, and eternal rest in the kingdom of God. Because of His covenant commitment, our Lord and Savior was zealous to complete this quest for God's glory and our restoration. We are recipients of God's romantic pursuit. Therefore, when we who love imperfectly discover the beauty of romance shared between a man and a woman, we engage in a drama that dimly reflects God's greater passion toward His people. By reflecting on God's sweet word, we remind our hearts of His perfect love that surpasses all else.
The Romantic God
In Jesus Christ, God is your husband who is the Creator, King, and Redeemer of the world– "Indeed, your husband is your Maker–his name is the Lord of Armies–and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of the whole earth" (Isaiah 54:5).
God's love is eternal and intimate. He sees and knows all of who you are–"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you" (Jeremiah 31:3).
God's love is constant compassion. God does not forget you–"Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15).
God initiates and sustains your relationship with Him. You are secure in His love–"For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him" (Ephesians 1:4).
God's love is unbreakable and pursuing. Sin and evil cannot prevail against it–"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
God abides with you forever. You can live with contentment–"Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, 'I will never leave you or abandon you'" (Hebrews 13:5).