I’ve been thinking about romance lately. I posted as a Facebook status that my husband had met me at the grocery store after he got off work, and that I thought that was romantic. I began to contemplate how my definition of this term has changed over nearly five decades. This quote came to mind:
Anne, you have tricked something out of that imagination of yours that you call romance. Have you forgotten how he gave up the Avonlea school for you so that you could stay here with me? He picked you up everyday in his carriage so that you could study your courses together. Don’t toss it away for some ridiculous ideal that doesn’t exist. (Marilla Cuthbert in Anne of Avonlea)
Can you relate? The average girl goes through this process of modification about what the ideal man is, doesn’t she? In elementary school, he is very much like Prince Charming (and maybe a smidge of Dad thrown in, if you were so blessed with a terrific one). Then, for the typical adolescent, it is usually some older teen boy who has dreamy eyes, a winning smile, and has some semblance of “cool” about him (however that translates according to preference). Then, in college, we begin to assign a future to that ideal guy. Maturity begins to emerge…the prospect needs to have some sort of projected worth…goals, aspirations, accomplishments…and if he’s cute, that’s awesome too!
Well, my experience dabbling in romance extended well into my twenties. I was a Christian from 17 on, and understood from various preachers that God had a say in this process too. We didn’t have all the great resources that are out there now that speak about the fact that it not only matters to God whether and whom we marry…but it is also of great importance to Him whether, how often, where, and with whom we might “date.” I wasted a lot of time… Okay, it was not entirely wasted, because God never wastes time even in the worst of circumstances (I justified my experience in that I certainly was finding out what I did not want!); but my life felt as if I had turned into the poster child for, “I Got What I Asked For, But Not What I Wanted.” I dated plenty of guys who were full of charisma, were “tall, dark and handsome”, talented, had leadership skills (but failed to realize as my friend Wendy has observed, that leadership in the biblical sense starts from the bottom up…true leadership bears a very strong resemblance to servanthood!) and charm. I found oftentimes, though, that they were equally full…of themselves. It never occurred to me that the guys might have a check list and that it might be very self-tailored.
And so, the demands began. I didn’t wear culottes. One wanted me to be his mom. Another was miffed the first time he discovered I was not perfect (mercy). I could not explain the doctrinal significance of this hymn. I was too tall. I did not play the piano. I was “too spiritual” (wow). I was not willing to hedge on the university rules. I had some standards of purity I was not willing to overstep.When I got my hair cut, it also cut my desirability in half (in that case I did it on purpose because I sensed a weird hair worship thing going on…I got my answer…yes, I’m that ornery). I was not willing to consider and embrace a deep and abiding relationship with past girlfriends after the wedding.
These are describing various different beaus, with sundry proposals of marriage sprinkled amongst them. After the last one, I had reached a state of exasperation and disappointment that drove me to my knees. I laid my heart before the Lord and told Him I wanted what He wanted, and if that was singleness, I would trust Him that that would be the place of joy and satisfaction for me.
And then He opened my eyes. There he was. He was blonde (which was not normally my thing), a bit rough around the edges, kinda ornery (go figure) and very spontaneous (which rubbed my organizational sensibilities the wrong way). But he had been my faithful friend. We served together conducting a children’s Bible club. After God cleared up my myopia, I began to see new things. This man’s faithfulness, and faith. His compassion for others. His love for the Word. His “plugger” mentality. His tender little quirks that hid securely under an I-don’t-wear-pink, tough guy exterior. I learned he wrote poetry. He was willing to deny himself in order to preserve me. He cared so much for me he was willing to say hard things to protect me.
I remember the night. I called and asked if he wanted to go for a walk with me. My feelings were still sufficiently bruised from the last relationship (the “I wanna have my cake and eat it too” guy). I needed to talk; but somehow I knew that by picking up that phone, things were going to change. They did. And within a few weeks, this man told me he loved me (although I did not reciprocate, mostly out of fear, for another few weeks). Our first walk was in February. By summer we were engaged. By December, we were married. I’ve never regretted it.
Romance? Yes, while we were dating he wrote me poetry and romantic letters (I have them all), sent me flowers, showered me with compliments. After we married, the notes slowed to a tiny trickle. But his romance shows itself in so many ways that, twenty years ago, I never would have observed in another couple and defined as “romantic.”
He has a generous spirit…I blogged more about it here and here (he’s a favorite subject of mine 😉 ). He watches the kids on some Saturdays so I can have some quiet (because I love solitude periodically), even though his week may have been grueling. He makes sure the car has fuel. He looks out for me when I have undertaken too much. He talks to me. He doesn’t complain when the house is “lived in” because we’ve been doing school all week. He holds my hand. He works so hard to provide for our family. He strives to stay pure in a world stuffed full of destructive influences. He prays. He is faithful to his responsibilities and is a terrific example to me and the kids. He challenges my thinking and will correct faulty reasoning. And yes, sometimes he brings home a bouquet or an occasional York Peppermint Patty. When health struggles seemingly smuggled away the woman he married, he hung on…because he still recognized her under the graying hair, the suffering that would occasionally steal her smile, and would modify her youthful exterior. He loves me for me…not for who he intends me to be. And together, we grow, in a way that we could not, being apart.
That’s real. That’s romance.