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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.


Anonymous said...

Adoro, I've never heard you say "I don't have a romantic bone in my body," but if I had, I wouldn't have believed it for the same reasons you have so eloquently written here. It seems that this story of your life has been nothing but one of the greatest love stories between you and God that I have read and your contstant acceptance (and sometimes rejection) of God's love for you continues to be a source of encouragement for me. Thanks!

Brother Charles said...

I like this post and it speaks to my heart. Entering religious life is a very romantic act.

Brendan said...

I have never thought about romance in that way before, but it does make complete sense to me now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I always value them.

God Bless,


Hidden One said...

I agree with you, Adoro, very much.

I think that an understanding of romance has separated the best poets from those who are merely the most popular or well-known.

Adoro said...

Anon ~ I'm glad you can't see my face. It's redder than the reddest I ever dyed my hair, and that was quite neon

Brother Charles ~ I KNEW you were a romantic! lol It makes you a better priest, I think!

Brendan ~ I didn't, either, and I'm totally surprised by this. Thank you.

Hidden One ~ I know that romanticism as a genre and even as a word arose out of the prelude to "enlightenment", and so it was ALWAYS the superficial aspect. But I remember reading, even in high school stuff from the "romantic period" and wondering "where's the romance?" Even then I had the wrong idea. I think the Romantics did have a better grasp of what they intended to convey even if they were mislead in the ultimate meaning of it. And I salute their efforts.

Hidden One said...

I agree that at least some of the Romantics had a better grasp of romance than do we as a society now. I also think that many (if not most) of the best romance poems have nothing of the Romantic era of poetry within them.

It is said - dictatur - that every poet is a romantic at heart (and I add, "but not necessarily a Romantic").

Scarlett said...

I spent a good part of the summer re-reading the entire Anne series and had somewhat less profound thoughts about romance. First I got disillusioned with real life because I'm not so sure my relationship with my boyfriend is as romantic as Anne and Gilbert's. Then I got disillusioned with Anne because real life's not like that.

They're still my favorite books in the world, though.

Adoro said...

Scarlett ~ That's why you're disillusioned; one doesn't read Anne to understand real life. One reads it to ESCAPE from it and believe, at least for awhile, that fairy tales might be real, at least on Prince Edward Island.

I have a hardbound book given to me that contains the first 3 books. I rarely make it past the first because that's my favorite and I'm busy! lol

I think what everyone misses is that relationships are supposed to be WORSE than Anne and Gilbert's, because it takes real work, real suffering, real blood, real tears. It's a total act of self-sacrifice, not a passive story of "it all falls into place".

Anne said...

Well I loved this post when I read it, but I love it even more for the references to Anne and Gilbert! I know it's not real life, but how I wish it were! I absolutely love Anne of Green Gables and her daydreaming life with her face in a book and a pen in her hand!

Scarlett said...

You know, there's actually a post on my blog from a few weeks ago titled "If only real life were like Avonlea..." It's hard not to want to live on PEI, isn't it?