Romance. We all love it don’t we? This week was Valentine’s Day – which our consumer society has made a day about romance (I don’t say love, deliberately…if only it were a day about real love) – and there’s nothing like a great romantic story.
Many of us daydream about our own (it’s okay, you can admit it) – and when we’re fed such a diet of rom-coms and Hollywood endings, it’s very easy to get sucked into thinking this is normal.
But this romanticism isn’t something we apply simply to relationships.
It can be easy to over-romanticise every area of our lives – work, relationships, creativity, and of course the supernatural – and these romantic films certainly encourage this view. It’s so easy, that we can do it without even realising.
For example, I could easily romanticise my writing and creativity.
The romantic in me would simply quit my job, finish my book and then sell it to a publisher. Then of course there’d be the happy ending to the story when it sold millions and millions of copies and was a roaring success.
In fact, like with many romantic stories, it would be easy to make that argument and disguise it merely as an solid, mature, spiritual and intellectual argument.
All you need to do is change it into Christianese, (the unique, cheesy language of church and Christians), and it almost sounds credible:
“Take a risk for God – give up your job and have faith. Use the gift He’s given you for His glory, and simply trust Him to provide for your needs. Trust God and live by faith.”
In the right context, that can sound pretty sensible, even wise. Occasionally it can be – I’m not saying at all there is no romance at all involved in faith – that is almost certainly one dimension of our relationship with the divine.
But sometimes – often – words like the above are not healthy. Not all of the time.
The danger is that can become simply another romantic story.
You see, we can over-romanticise our spirituality very easily.
Now I’m not saying for one moment God doesn’t ask us to take risks, to take difficult decisions and trust Him to provide for us. Of course He does, at times, and there is nothing wrong with taking risks of faith and trusting God to provide – in the right circumstances.
However, there is a big difference between taking a risk for God out of reverence and obedience, and doing it simply because we love the romantic idea of doing it, and everything working out, because we want to be the hero in our own romantic story. When we make our own minds up to do something out of some romantic notion of trusting God – rather than in response to His genuine call – then it’s not healthy.
That’s why when God does speak to us we have to be very responsible in making our decisions about how to respond – and it’s important to take time to discern what His will really is for us.
All of us secretly yearn to be the hero of our own story, to take some big risk, big decision and triumph against all the odds.
But it’s one thing to live a great story – which we should all aspire to do – and another to let romance dictate our story, and lead us into doing rash and foolish things.
Romance is fine – in its proper place – in both life and faith.
But when we let romance dictate our story, rather than simply be one dimension of it, and live life like it’s a big romantic story which we’re at the centre of, then we can end up looking rash, foolish and irresponsible.
We can then inadvertently stop listening to God – because we start to make assumptions about what He wants, and stop actually listening to Him.
In it’s proper place romance is wonderful, life changing and joyful – I mean which of us can honestly say we really dislike a bit of romance in our lives?
But when we make it our entire life then we can start to seem rash and foolish.
Life simply doesn’t always turn out like it does in the movies, or in the happy-ending Christian stories we hear about answered prayer or someone being healed.
However, when Jesus tells people stories, it’s not quite that way – just like real life isn’t that way.
The parable of the lost son for example, doesn’t end with everything resolved. The father invites the elder son to celebrate his younger son’s return with him. He tells him that everything he has belongs to him, but that it’s right to celebrate the return of his younger son, and invites him to join the party.
Then the story ends.
There’s no resolution. We simply don’t know how it ends.
Life doesn’t always work out how we plan it. Sometimes it’s not all happy endings, we don’t always get the romantic Christian ending where everyone makes up, everyone is healed, and everything is okay.
Sometimes the person doesn’t get healed.
Sometimes the relationship doesn’t work out.
Sometimes the person doesn’t get that job.
Sometimes people don’t resolve their differences.
I don’t say that to be depressing, but that is what life can be like. It doesn’t always turn out how we plan – even if we’re a Christian. Following Jesus isn’t a guarantee that everything will work out okay.
There isn’t always the romantic ending to the story.
However, what we end up discovering is that God has something far better for us. He uses our journey – the good and the bad, the joy and the suffering – for our good and His glory.
I would not have chosen to see my parents marriage end the way it did, or to lose my mother at such a young age – but looking back on both of these events, it is clear to see that God has used those experiences for my benefit, to help my growth and maturity, and ultimately to benefit others.
I would not change what happened now. Because although it was painful, I can see how God planned for it, used it to shape me into who I am.
So although not every chapter of our story has the happy-ever-after, romantic ending, every story can and is used to disciple us – and to serve others and ultimately make God’s kingdom more of a reality.
That’s a far better resolution to the story than some romantic ending – because it allows God to do whatever He chooses to do with our story, and use it in ways beyond our comprehension, imagination and understanding.
God always has a far greater use for our stories, than we can ever have – and it’s usually never what we would have planned for or romanticise about.
It’s different – and better.
Do you romanticise your faith – and your life?
What do you think is a healthy view of romance in your life?
How do you think we get balance between realism and romance?
How do you think you can avoid over-romanticising your life?
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