"I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3)
Romance is the deepest thing in life
It is deeper even than reality - C.K. Chesterton
Dusk... I love the feel of the word, the time it announces. It fills your heart with a grandeur that is vast but gentle, that sweet time before the close of day. Sunset is a word that does not quite fill the heart with the same wonder. Sunset is associated with posters in travel agencies, lovers lingering on the beach, romance... The kind of romance that expects - flowers, candle light dinners, heroes on white horses. It has been made into something that can be wrapped up, dressed up, cooked up. It is sweet but fleeting. It's heart is fickle and without depth. It shimmers like a mirage over hot sand - leaving you still thirsting, still longing in its wake.
Romantic love has inspired poetry and love-letters, promises of undying love. The face of it may have changed over the centuries, but at its core is still a heart of need and expectation. And its source is soon drained, to be briefly revived on occasions like wedding anniversaries and Valentine's days. But, having said all that ... it can still be marvellous - and viewed in the right context and given the right priority, it can add wonder to a heartfelt time of courtship and bring times of refreshment between a man and woman in the throes of managing family, career etc.
But what happens in-between? What satisfies the hunger, the longing, the void that just always seems to stay unfulfilled, regardless of our desperate efforts to fill it?
I first became aware of a "wooing" shortly after I came through a self-effacing time of divorce. The day was balmy and I was sitting under a leafy canopy of stink wood and camphor in my former garden. I was listening to the joyful noises of the family next door, the sound of splashing water and the chimes of children's laughter, with the fragrance of their Sunday lunch spilling over the wall. I felt empty and alone and probably very sorry for myself... Oh God, I breathed, I am so alone. Then it happened - a breeze caressed my face and I distinctly heard a voice saying: "Trust me". Bewildered I sat up, looked around me and then glanced at the treetops. The leaves were absolutely still. There was no wind. Then a warmth, more like a glow came all over me and the love that I felt made me choke it was so beautiful, so pure.
I was alone no more. I was enveloped, about to begin a dance of true and everlasting love.
Over the months and years the courtship continued, in ways so surprising and varied that it always took my breath away. But I often shied away from it, not feeling worthy of it, and not sure how to respond to such a Love. There were times that my heart became so hardened, that I managed to shut it out completely. But the faithful Lover of my heart never gave up.
Then the gift of life was placed in my womb and the mystery and wonder of it left me vulnerable and giddy. The miracle, passion and pain of birth left me in awe. We were given a brief glimpse into the Holiest of Holies.
My own story is too deeply personal and complex to relate fully. But the heartache, wonder and tough challenges of being a family, a mother and wife wore away at the fort around my heart. First I just felt a conviction to fight for my family, for the two children entrusted to us to grow up in a circle of Love and security. But this meant I had to let go, I had to trust, I had to soften...
Finally and slowly, a new dawn came and in the refreshment of it's mercy, my heart grew hungry to respond to the overwhelming love that that I had received. I have danced with my Lord Jesus, walked in silence with Him in the forest, cried sweet tears of joy in His arms. To some, this may sound ridiculous, sentimental even, but that does not matter, a love this free needs air, needs song, gives praise.
A friend recently remarked at our youngest son's birthday party: "You are a real romantic aren't you?" At first I felt a bit taken aback, not sure if it was a compliment or a jibe... Nonetheless, it is true. Beauty and romance have both been so misunderstood, that we often forget that it is an essential element of who and what we are. Of who and what God is and ultimately of who and what his Son Jesus was and is and always will be.
The way Jesus romances us is immensely personal. You will know it when you feel it, for it will be as if it has been scripted for your heart. He knows what takes your breath away, what makes your heart beat faster. "We miss many of his notes simply because we shut our hearts down to endure the pain of life" (Stasi Eldredge). In our healing journeys, our hearts have to become open and remain open to hear His whispers, receive His caresses.
Does this sound wrong, disrespectful, thinking of Jesus as a romancing suitor? Reading Song of Songs, the poetry of the Psalms, as well as intimate bits of scripture given to me over the years, made me realise that not only is it not wrong, it is what Jesus desires from each one of us.
Listen to this: "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame".(Song of Solomon 8:6) and this:
My beloved spoke and said to me, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. (Song of Solomon 2:10).
Whether you love poetry or not, these are not cool, commanding words. They are intimate and strong, and can only be felt and made your own if you allow that "mighty flame" to be lit in your own heart.
There are so many declarations of and invitations to love in the bible, but we must choose to open our hearts, so that we might hear his whispers. Not only in scripture. Think of those moments when you feel something touch your very core. It could be a gentle caress in a bountiful garden, or the shimmer of a dragonfly, or a shout from the wild beauty of a mountaintop. They all speak of the limitless love that He has for YOU.
When Jesus was visiting with Martha and Mary, we see a picture of two woman, one preparing a special meal for her Master and another sitting at his feet, gazing up at Him with adoring eyes. Doing nothing. Who does he delight in? Mary - the one at His feet. For she had chosen the "one thing" that was needed. Which is... A captivated adoring heart, a heart which responds to the extravagant love of God with worship. And it should be the most natural thing of all. We were made to worship.
The last page of "The Divine Romance" by Gene Edwards reads like this:
"The distant vision began to fade, then it vanished. The young woman, now standing at the crest of the emerald hill, rises to her feet, a deep sense of the love of the Lord stirring within her... for she has just heard the overwhelming cry of the living Holy Spirit within her. And the Spirit within her has cried ... Come! And like Eve before her, she lifts her hands to the skies, raises her voice, believing her counterpart might hear her... and cries: "Come Lord Jesus. Come!". And just beyond the door, in realms of glory, He who loved her and died for her... now hears her plea. At last she is putting off lesser things, knowledge, service, sacrifice. She is returning to the highest order of the universe. "She is learning to love me" He whispers.
Our Lord is an extravagant, abundant Lover and He loves to reveal His heart to us again and again. You are made for this Divine Romance, and the only One who can offer it to you consistently and deeply is Jesus.
Offer your heart to Him.