Friday, August 07, 2009
It's a cloudy, rainy day in Minnesota, and something about this weather always seems to bring on a mood of cautious melancholy. For awhile I sat down to read one of my favorite books, Anne of Green Gables. I'm tired of deep theology and mystical spirituality. What I needed was...a bit of romance. A bit of an example of innocence and humor. A little dose of Anne Shirley.
For a long time now, I've wryly told people, "I don't have a romantic bone left in my body." In musing about that statement, though, I had to ask myself... "Is that really true?"
Have I gotten so jaded and cynical that I haven't a heart for romance?
Maybe the better question is, "What is Romance?"
Romance, like love in our modern age, isn't properly understood. It's become so warped that we who say we don't have it aren't really rejecting it outright, but perhaps the superficialiaty of this "enlightened" age.
Romance certainly can mean that one is prone to flights of fancy and impulsive acts of jealous destruction. However, the meaning is so much deeper than that.
We have this idea that to be practical, realistic, and reflective are antonyms to romance, yet I'd argue that without those three qualities, there can be no romance at all.
I've thought about my own writings, what I've written about discernment, conversion, and pursuing Jesus over the last few years. I've considered all of my words, spoken and unspoken, written publicly or written privately, the agony, the indescribable beauty of God, and I've now had to face my own hard statement: Can it really be said that I don't have a romantic bone left in my body?
Or is it actually that I've somehow managed to discover the true meaning of romance, just as I've learned the true meaning of love?
Real romance isn't all flowers and stars in our eyes and mooning about on tiptoe with our heads stuck in the clouds. I've rarely met a person like that, and if I have, romance actually had nothing to do with their sad condition.
No. Romance isn't fluff.
It's heartbreaking. It's sacrificial. It's a word that perhaps inadequately describes an indescribable interior motivation to go beyond where we ever thought we could in pursuit of understanding the deepest interior longings of our hearts. In that longing there is incredible joy especially when some of the final outcome is glimpsed as we follow that elusive lover from place to place, only to discover in the end that He has been present all the time, ever watchful, jealously guarding from the moment of conception.
Real romance is work, and it can be rejected, it can be lost, but not on account of the One we pursue, but through our own vile unfaithfulness. In this story, we are the antagonist, the adulterer, the unfaithful spouse constantly looking for salvation.
Perhaps its true, then, partially that I'm not a romantic. I fully reject the definition that limits the idea of romance to illicit affairs, celebrity clashes and bubble-headed characters of the big screen. I reject the hokey, ragged bodice-ripper paperbacks that could be put to better use as campfire kindling. I reject all of this because romance and love are supposed to be related and NONE of the above has ANYTHING to do with love, but only the pursuit of hedonistic self-satisfaction to the detriment of another soul.
No, I'm not a romantic. Not that kind. But perhaps I'm not entirely dead, either, for even as I reject the superficiality, I'm willing to embrace the fullness and the deepest truth of romance, for in some ways, I'm living it and writing about it.
We may not know how this particular romance will go, but we are all, every single one of us, called to enter into that story. Whether we are married or single, whether we are priests, brothers, sisters, friars, monks, nuns or hermits, we all have that deep interior longing for the elusive lover of our souls. He beckons us onward even when we cannot see, knowing that one day, if we follow and remain faithful, we'll be invited to that great unending wedding feast where we'll be bound forever to Him for eternity. We'll have to go through fire and flood, storms and collapse in order to get to Him, but we will go, because we cannot disobey the truth that calls us to carry on through any trial or tribulation. We do this, because He already did and showed us the way. Romance is that sacrifice, and our response.
That's real romance, and that's real love.
I guess I'm a romantic after all.