Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Death of Romance

So now you've seen the drifting my mind does in the thick of evening - at least if you read my last post. Now let me address something that has bothered me for a couple years. It seems that for a while now, the going cosmopolitanism has been to get on an internet dating service, and though this seems pretty one-sided to begin with, 'Christendom' (as Timothy Keller puts it) had to put it's product out under the shaky terrestrial umbrella of marketing. While simply following the world to keep oneself relevant is self-stultifying and certainly not Kingdom-minded, this is a deceptive idea to an even greater end for followers of Christ who know True Love in our Lord.

I constantly hear folks talking about how they met someone, or how they'd like to meet someone (to fall in love with and marry, that is). While this is not necessarily wrong, and prayer for such things is certainly not wrong (God can always say yes or no of his own choice), I believe the prevalence of this type of attitude - and the attitude of dating/dumping/shopping - reveals a deep misunderstanding of love. It appears that people think that love is when you find someone with similar interests, whose looks attract you, and whose touch or compliment sends you into mental ecstacy. The church is the people of God, and the buildings where they meet should not be houses of happenstance match-making. Nor should any other place. You see, love is so much more than finding someone who likes long walks on the beach and who doesn't want a dog and who wants 2 or 3 kids (all girls, as if they had any control). If we look into our Scriptures, we see that "this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." We see that "love is patient...kind...not envious...not boastful." Nor rude or self-seeking. Nor mistrustful. The entire Song of Solomon is devoted to the expression of love between a husband and wife (though it has much more meaning), but we should not take for granted that they know each other. They've spent time together. They have sex and it's wonderful, but preemptive to their sexual relationship is their knowledge and appreciation and tolerance of one another. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her." To give oneself to someone attempts to create communion (closely related to communication - hence the word structure), and communion goes vastly beyond sexual intercourse or even physical touch. Love is sacrifice, first and foremost. It is not finding someone who pleases your eyes and ears and touch. It is a giving of yourself to someone. Yourself, your essence, what makes you You. It is the giving up of the You for the betterment of the Her or the Him.

Several years ago, I asked my mom what she thought about whether people were matched up before they were even born, and whether they were supposed to find one another and marry (whether they were MFEO, to the Sleepless in Seattle fan). She said to me that she used to think so, but after being married for so long, she rather thought that you could marry anyone in the world, as long as you were willing to live with them. This lie of 'match-making' may have a wonderful turn-out rate, but if I were a bettin' man, I'd say the turn-over rate is quite high as well - if people are basing relationships on the unsacrificial enjoyment of another's company. Make no mistake, I don't think internet or phone dating services are wrong. They are a great way to meet people, and meeting people is how relationships begin (and yes, I know that all relationships are different in structure and genesis). But it still takes a sacrificial attitude to maintain a loving relationship with a person. For most strongly knit couples, you would find it commonplace to hear them say something about their spouse such as, "so-and-so is my best friend." I've never heard of anyone searching the web or the phonebook for a best friend (though I'm sure someone will invent such a thing soon enough). I am not presenting this challenge for those who don't know Jesus Christ, since it is ridiculous to expect Christ-like behavior from a Christ-less world. Those who claim to be in Love (and I'm speaking of our Lord) should know better the structure and nature of love between two people.

For us hopeless romantics (and I have yet to meet someone who is a pure realist), this does not preclude romance in a relationship. We should instead be reminded that romance, however intoxicating, is not love unless love already exists without it.


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