Remember Jenga—the game that requires you to carefully remove wooden blocks from a tower without causing the structure to tumble? After you set the blocks up on your table, you carefully and strategically pull out blocks, not breathing for fear of toppling the tower.
Now imagine that we sit down to play Jenga, but I suggest playing it on the surface of a block of Jell-O. How do you think that would go? We would never be able to get the game started because the pieces would constantly be shifting.
As a culture, we love the idea of romance—of pursuing someone for the purpose of securing their deep, undying adoration, a soundtrack of violins swelling in the background. But many of us approach romance like playing Jenga on top of Jell-O. We know that the pieces of love, sacrifice, time, affection, communication and intimacy should be there, but we attempt to put these pieces together without a firm foundation. Sin has knocked our loves out of order, and we need a firm foundation to rest on as the Spirit restores our ability to love another.
Romance is an expression of love. It is that particular expression reserved for those who are united together in covenant marriage. It is an intimate expression of love that flourishes between two persons. It has been called eros, Aphrodite, and is considered to be the most physical and vulnerable expression of love. It is commonly associated with courtship, dating, engagement, marriage and sex.
As Augustine notes in On Christian Doctrine I, when our loves are “disordered,” those good things that God has given us will become poisons. Sin has broken our desire for relationship and romance. Instead of desiring to love another person selflessly, to serve them with our love, our broken hearts desire to be served by them. Author and philosophy professor David Naugle notes, “We attach our loves to various things for happiness’ sake in horribly disordered ways.” We might say that if we spurn our first lover, God, then every future romance will be askew.
When our view of love is disordered, our romantic life is broken, and we forget:
- Romance is Gift, Not God
In a disordered love, romance is turned from gift to God. We think we can construct a proper foundation for love in and of ourselves. Instead of seeing God as our highest love and the source of all true love and delight, we begin to treat Him as merely one of the many recipients of our love. We forget that “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
When we forget that God’s love is the foundation that reorders our loves, the beauty and self-sacrificial nature of love is lost as our lusts control our sick hearts.
- Redeemed Romance is Possible
Romance does not belong exclusively to non-Christians. Christians have the freedom to be romantics. They are free to write poetry, pour red wine, buy flowers, look longingly and enjoy God’s good gift of covenant love and covenant union. The Bible is full of redeemed romance; Song of Solomon represents a paradigm for the kind of romance that is available to the Christian. In this picture of holy romance, the man tells his lover, “Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves” (Song of Solomon 1:15).
This statement and others like it are beautiful in the ears of the Lord, but when romance is given our worship it will quickly turn into a demon, laying us bare on its sacrificial altar. When romance is pursued for salvation—from loneliness, from lack of fulfillment, from lust—it will only yield destruction. Don’t believe me? Consider the life of David.
David and Bathsheba’s story is one of disordered romance. David, governed by his lusts, takes what does not belong to him for selfish purposes and then attempts to cover his error with lies, deception and murder. David abandoned his first love, and subsequently, his concept of love became disordered.
Redeemed romance is not only possible, but it is better. Christians are free to enjoy the gift of romance within marriage, as their love for each other rests on the steady foundation of God’s love for His people.
- Earthly Romance Reflects Eternal Romance
Foundational to the Christian doctrine of salvation is the believer’s union with Christ. It is as we are united with Christ that our identity, deepest desires and delights become rooted in the person and work of God. The Holy Spirit is given to us, assuring us that the Lord has set us apart for Himself and bound us to His love and grace.
In contrast, a disordered romance promises a union that it cannot deliver. When we make romance a god we worship, we hope in vain that if we could just unite ourselves with another individual, we would be whole. Yet, like all idols, romance is a false god that makes promises it cannot keep.
Union with Christ enables us to enjoy true union with our spouse, the kind of union where “two become one,” because we understand it to be a reflection of a greater love, an eternal romance between the King and His bride, the Church.
Have you sought to pursue romance without a foundation? Come to Christ and be wooed by the divine Lover. Only then will you be able to see romance as gift, not god.