Saturday, July 31, 2010

Love Wishlist

On life's road, we get so wrapped up with where we are trying to get to and often forget to roll down the windows and breathe in the bold, crisp air. Sometimes it even calls for hanging your head out of that window and letting the moment rush over you and through you in such a way that you feel like you've arrived at your journey's end. At least for the moment.

A few days ago, I decided to take a road trip to Glacier National Park, being the road warrior that I am. The extent of my planning involved taking a road map and enough money to get me there and back. After some twists and turns and a few phone calls, I've ended up at a gorgeous ranch in Montana. Montana is like a young, blushing Oregon. Voluptuous mountains, virgin rivers, and the trees, oh the trees, dripping with color that redefines green. The wildlife dances and sings as if in a Disney film. Yes, I am having a love affair with Montana, as it seduces me with its down home country charm. Something tells me that I will retire to this rugged paradise someday. I can see my future. I can see an old man guarding a log cabin nestled in the woods, as he rocks in his chair and smokes his pipe and pats his dog. During the day, he chops wood and at night he sits by the fireplace, writing and fiddling with prose long after the world has ceased from reading. Anyway, I love road trips. There is something about seeing the world from a new vantage point that causes me to take a fresh look at life itself. Clarity and inspiration and enlightenment waft through the air like incense. God is here, omnipotence at rest.

I've been thinking about what kind of woman I should marry. I feel like I've been searching each and everyday for most of my life, it's exhausting. I feel like Bono, I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Church people will say that God brought Eve to Adam while he was asleep so we don't need to worry about doing anything to find our soulmate. But I sometimes wonder if it's time for me to wake up and behold my bride, maybe the problem is that I've been asleep for too long. Some Christians will also say that you shouldn't have a wishlist when it comes to looking for your spouse. But if you ask those people "Should I marry a Christian?" then they will say "Yes, of course." If that is not the beginning of a list then I don't know what is. I think what they mean by not having a list is that we should hold the specifics very loosely. If your list is too exhaustive then you might not recognize the better person that God has for you. For instance, I've always thought it would be neat to marry a woman who sings so that we could sing together, but ultimately it's really not that important. Or it doesn't really matter if the girl is blonde or brunette. Stuff like that.

I've heard several Christian guys talk about finding a girl that embodies the 3 H's---holy, hot and humble. Yeah, it's not a perfect list, but it's a start. I'll explain my version of that list. Holy--A girl who deeply loves God and lives in obedience to Him. I want a girl who encourages me toward Spirit-filled godliness instead of pulling me toward materialistic mediocrity. Hot---not in a worldly sense, but a girl who is naturally beautiful inside and out. Yes, beauty is both subjective and fleeting, but it still makes sense to marry someone that you are attracted to. Humble--a woman who serves others instead of expecting the world to serve her, someone who will serve alongside me. I find this to be the rarest of the 3 H's. Whenever I see humility in a girl, I'm taken back to the point of stumbling over, as if I've just seen the angel of God. It is quite extraordinary. Many guys are willing to settle for a hot and holy girl, but for me pride is the deal breaker. I can't marry a prima donna. It would be the end of me. And ultimately it would hinder me from serving God. No can do. I'm called to be a leader, and I need a wife that will let me lead the dance. And when I fall, I want someone who will help me up, not hold me down. The point is this, a girl who is full of humility is a girl who is full of grace. I want grace incarnate.

Yeah, I have high standards, which is probably why I haven't married yet. But I think that the only thing worse than having high standards is to have no standards at all. It's interesting how different girls seem to bring out different sides of me. I guess maybe I'm looking for the girl who makes me feel more like who I'm meant to be, or at least who I'd like to be. And I want to be that for her too. When I was younger, all I wanted was a relationship with scintillating passion. That's still important to me, but I've come to esteem something else even more. And that is, peace. I want the girl who I'm at peace with. That kind of peace that brings with it completeness and contentment. I already have that with God, and I want to have that with my wife. Be that as it may, it seems that my wishlist is more of a general silhouette rather than a detailed portrait. But she's out there. Somewhere. I just know it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What Is Romance?

"Romance" is one of those words that you think you have a firm grasp on until you try to define it and then it doesn't sound quite as romantic. It is relatively tied to the definition of "love" which is equally as shifty. But if I want to be a romantic and if I am to romance another then what exactly is romance?

When we try to define romance we usually resort to describing romance in action. We say things like "Romance involves candlelight dinners and exotic vacations and poetic serenades and dancing into the night." I don't doubt that those are wonderful manifestations of romance, but is that it? I wonder if a relationship could have those activities and yet not have romance. And it seems that if those are the only benchmarks of romance then we are doomed to a romance that is inconsistent and will soon grow tired. Sure, romance thrives on adventure and chivalry and intimacy and thoughtfulness, but where does it all begin? What fuels that romance that so tickles the soul?

We must always rethink where our standard for romance is coming from. Magazines? Movies? Novels? The Bachelor or the Bachelorette? (Bad news, most of those relationships haven't lasted very long once the cameras stopped rolling.) The world peddles a romance that divorces itself from reality to the point of becoming unattainable. When we don't find that kind of romance in the real world then we exile our hearts to the magazines and movies and novels and TV shows, all of which are after our money and not our well-being. For us Christians, vigilance is quite necessary if we are to avoid buying into the deceitful patterns of this world. Afterall, the most dangerous lies are those that speak so sweetly to our hearts until we see the truth as the enemy. The Bible presents many ironies. It tells us that we will find our life when we lose it. When we run after happiness then we feel very unhappy. It becomes that carrot, always just out of reach. You never feel like you can do enough to arrive at bliss. Likewise, when romance becomes our number one priority, then it becomes our god. We originally expect that god to serve us, but later realize that we are the slave. I must always remind the romantic within that he too exists to serve the true living God.

I looked up "romance" in the dictionary and didn't find a suitable definition, so I feel some liberty to discover it for myself, instead of following someone else's recipe. Naturally, the artist in me desires a romance that is fresh and spontaneous and full of possibilities, anything but scripted. Afterall, I find that happy moments cannot be bought or engineered. I don't think that romance can be defined because it is not a one-size-fits-all formula. It looks different depending on the person you are romancing, it calls for a custom fitting. Giving a dozen roses to someone who is allergic to roses would hardly be romantic. At any rate, it seems that the key to obtaining romance begins with the desire to make someone else feel romanced. It hinges on knowing them, caring enough to understand what makes them feel understood, and then specializing in what makes them feel special. The best romantics are those that know how to improvise.

The curious thing about romance is that it must be given in order to be enjoyed. It is like electricity which requires a current in order to feel it. Romance is designed to flow in and out, instead of being absorbed. It goes both ways. It is always better to give than to recieve. It's not unlike the old proverb that says "He who desires to have friends must be friendly." In other words, in order to get romance we must be ready to give it. I heard a speaker say that many couples approach a relationship as if it's to be 50/50, so that each one of them are merely concerned with contributing their 50 percent, as long as the other person holds up their end of the bargain. But the speaker said that that's all wrong and that both people should have the mindset that they are both contributing 100 percent no matter what.

Oddly enough, many Christians discount the element of romance in relationships, as if it's a childish fling. I don't share that sentiment. Piety and passion don't have to be at odds with each other, in fact they provide a beautiful symmetry. The apostle Paul said that marriage is actually the outlet for those who are burning with passion. Yes, I'll take spicy, sizzling romance thank you very much. God doesn't seem to like lukewarmness either. Personally, I cringe at the thought of being in a relationship without romance. What can I say? I am a lovesick soul. Guilty as charged.