Denise Day Spencer

February 12, 2007

That dreaded “R” word

Filed under: Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 6:05 am

Well, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and you know what that means. It’s time for the guys over on the BHT to begin their annual rant against romance. I don’t think they’ve started yet, but there’s still plenty of time.

They have good intentions. They make many good points which are very true. They quote John Piper, and I like John Piper. Yes, marriage should be about more than romance–much more. Yes, romance fades but real love lives on. Yes, marriage is way more about agape love than any other kind. It’s about sacrifice, sometimes even suffering. It’s about giving even when you don’t feel like it. But still, I wonder…

Does it have to be either/or?

Of course, it all goes back to definitions, doesn’t it? What do we even mean when we say “romance?” In times past, the BHT fellows have seemed to identify it primarily with externals–giving the woman cards or flowers or candy or jewelry, taking her out on a special date, etc. Some have denounced romance as “the worship of women,” and have expressed frustration that women demand to be adored in this way. But still, I wonder…

Could it be something more?

I can’t define it, either. But I can do a few word associations that may help explain what I think of when I hear the word.

I won’t quote it, but you can read the Song of Solomon, where the lovers are obviously totally delighting in one another in a very sensual way. To me, that’s romance.

Then there’s Proverbs 30:18-19: “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a virgin.” That sounds very mysterious to me…and very romantic.

And speaking of romance being the worship of women, listen to a few words from Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World: “Few Christians hallow sex in the way that we hallow nature. I know many hymns that celebrate natural creation, but none that celebrate sexuality in the way that Song of Solomon or the book of Proverbs does. In the old Anglican marriage ceremony, a husband used to declare to his bride, ‘with my body I thee worship,’ acknowledging sex as a gift of God that could become a form of homage, even praise.” If the near-worship of the beloved leads us to praise the God who gave him/her to us, maybe it’s not so bad.

I can’t help but think about an elderly lady in our family. She was married to one man all of her life until he died a couple of years ago. Any time we’d stop by to visit them, even well into their retirement years, they’d both be clad in their Sunday best. This woman always looked like she’d just stepped out of a fashion magazine (still does!) She had her hair done, full makeup on, and heels on her feet, whether she was going to church or to the grocery or just staying home. When her husband died, she and I had a chance to chat for a few minutes at the funeral home. “Do you know why I always dressed up?” she asked me. “No,” I replied, for I had, in fact, always wondered. “Because he liked for me to,” she said. “He always told me, ‘You are the prettiest girl I ever did see!'”

This was a Christian couple who definitely put their love for God above their love for one another. And the longevity of their marriage proved that they had relied upon plenty of agape love through the years in order to survive. Yet after decades of life together, there was still that spark, that chemistry, if you will. The last time we visited with her, she again recalled their relationship. “No man ever loved a woman any more than he loved me,” she asserted with confidence. She believes that because she knew it from the way he treated her and the way he expressed his feelings to her. In my book, that’s romance.

What is romance anyway? Is it a healthy thing for Christian couples, or does it lure us away from the kind of love needed to stay in the trench when the going gets tough? I don’t have any magic answers. I’m just sharing a few observations and asking a few questions. What do you think?


1 Comment »

  1. My husband and I have been married 25 years. At least once a month he buys me flowers, but never on Valentines day or our anniversary. He frequently comes home with a special treat for me – a piece of my favorite candy, grapes, etc., but on our 25th anniversary we didn’t actually do anything special because neither of us could think of anything we would rather do than just be at home together. I consider my husband one of the most romantic men on earth. He is, clearly, besotted with me. But we also have plenty of agape love, too. We, like most couples married a long time, have been through our share of struggles, but we have always turned to each other, not on each other. We support and help each other no matter what comes up. And we are both firmly convinced that just agape is not enough to have a good marriage. It is not either/or. It is both/and. Without both a marriage can never be all God intended it to be. But with both it can be the closest thing there is to heaven on earth.

    Comment by Violet — February 14, 2007 @ 10:31 am | Reply

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