Friday, 5 February 2010

The Pursuit of Romance

That clear, cloudless night in August was surreal, lying there upon a carpet of grass and gazing up at the multitude of stars strewn across the heavens. Beyond the cliff edge the waves lapped softly against the shoreline, the only sound I was aware of other than my beating heart. The occasional light danced across the dark waters, indicative of a distant ship making its lone voyage. It felt like a dream but the sharp night air was a constant reminder that this was reality. 

We talked for hours that night. 'I love you,' he breathed, as a shooting star swept across the sky and disappeared amidst a cluster of stars. 'I love you too,' I murmured. I wanted to turn a cartwheel, to dance for joy. I could barely look at him because I wanted to kiss him, and was afraid. I don't know how much time had elapsed before I tentatively turned to face him, and when I did our lips met fleetingly. Our first kiss was hesitant and ungainly, but when I returned to my tent some time later, I felt like I was floating ten feet off the ground...

Why is it that this memory stands out in my mind more than any other?

Intrinsically Linked

Those of you who read a previous post of mine entitled Beauty in the 'Real' Sense will remember that I discussed beauty as the desire that lies in the heart of almost every woman, alluding heavily to John and Stasi Eldredge's book, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. This is one of three desires that John and Stasi identify, and it is my belief that all three are intrinsically linked. Today I am going to discuss the second of these desires, namely, the longing for romance.

John and Stasi write, 'A woman becomes beautiful when she knows she's loved' (page 112). I would like to rephrase that and say a woman feels beautiful when she knows she's loved. When I read this, I was reminded of a line from the film, The Princess Diaries. At the end of the film the heroine, Mia, gets together with her best friend's brother. He asks her, 'Why me?' and she responds, 'Because you saw me when I was invisible'. I can really relate to this. Before I met Spud, I felt as though I was invisible, and only saw the ugliness in me. However, when Spud came into my life and saw beauty in me, my self esteem was elevated. 

I am not trying to say that romance is a magical cure for low self esteem that will wipe away all traces of ugliness. The emphasis today is not on beauty, but on romance. What I am trying to say is that all too often our pursuit of beauty and romance are difficult to separate. They seem to be very much connected. 

Unsought and Unfulfilled

Think about it: the favourite conversation topics amongst women are very often centred on relationships. We place so much emphasis on love and romance. Doesn't every woman fantasise about her wedding day from a young age, or dream of being rescued by her knight in shining armour? To use fictitious examples, think of Monica from Friends, or Jane Austen's Mrs Bennett, who is obsessed with marrying her daughters off. Some women feel that their life purpose or goal is to get married, and it is important to remember that up until early last century, marriage was virtually the only respectable position for a woman. 

So often in life we are made to feel unsought and unfulfilled. Some women might watch their friends being married off and at some point feel as though they've been left on the shelf. This is not just something women feel later in life, when they fear their biological clock is ticking. Even pre-pubescent girls worry about being the only one without a boyfriend. The summer before last, Spud and I were tent officers at a Bible camp for 10-13 year olds. I was responsible for four 13 year old girls, and what amazed me was the importance they placed on getting a boyfriend. During the week, several of the youngsters paired up, including 3 of my girls. The remaining girl became very depressed because she had never had a boyfriend before, and none of the camp boys wanted to go out with her. She was so very young to be thinking in that way, but then it suddenly struck me that I was exactly the same at her age!

You see, I wasted most of my teenage years longing for a boyfriend. I prayed almost every night to be noticed by my latest crush, but I never was. By the age of sixteen I had come to the depressing conclusion that I would never be singled out by a guy, and thus never get a boyfriend. I spent another year praying, all the same. When I turned seventeen I was baptised, and began to seek God more. One night, a few months after my baptism, I prayed that God would grant me the will to submit if his plan was for me to remain single. About a week or two later Spud came into my life!

Never Too Late

A few weeks ago I overheard a conversation between two of the residential students I work with. They are two of the more capable students, and had spent some time in mainstream education before they came to the college. They were discussing their lack of boyfriends at their former schools, because the boys could not see past their disabilities. Since starting at the college and meeting other students with visual impairments, they have both had boyfriends. 

I wish I hadn't spent my teenage years worrying about my lack of a boyfriend. Linda Marshall suggests in her book Pure that we should use singlehood to develop our relationship with God,  which was what I was just starting to do when Spud entered my life. If I had adopted this attitude sooner, I could have used the time to grow so much closer to God. 

This is less easy to do once you're in a relationship. When I first started going out with Spud, it took me a while to get my priorities right. I didn't forget about God, but I certainly put Spud before him on many occasions, and was in danger of idolising him. Here's an appropriate passage from Jane Eyre, when Jane describes how she feels about Mr Rochester: 'My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world; almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol' (page 386). 

I was brought sharply down to earth when we did the Pure course at Christian Union. I realised then that I needed to straighten my priorities and put God first - allow him to rule over my relationship with Spud, and to guide us. 

It's never too late to meet Mr Right. I met Spud relatively early in life, even if it did feel like a long wait before I met him, but it's different for everybody. I think the best way is to be patient and trust God. Pray that if it's not his will for you to meet Mr Right, that he would ease your desire and show you his true purpose for you. I'm sure he'll have something amazing in store for you. Just remember, being in a relationship isn't everything. In fact, it can be a real hindrance at times. When you're in a relationship you have to learn to compromise, and take both opinions into consideration. You might lose friends because of your significant other. You have the pressure of another's expectations, and influence. I know friends who have ended relationships and been glad to be single for a while. Being single is not always a bad thing. 

Finally, strange as it might sound, allow God to romance you. Whenever something good comes out of a day, for example, when I see a beautiful sunrise; when a desired purchase is cheaper than I thought it would be; when a favourite song comes onto the radio, etc., I perceive it as a demonstration of love from my heavenly father. God knows each and every one of us individually, and knows exactly what we like. He likes to please us. Psalm 37.4 reads, 'Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart'. How is he wooing you?

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