One ordinary day, I trudged down the stairs from making beds and gathering laundry. I walked past day-old dirty dishes stacked on the kitchen counter while exhaling a not-so-quiet sigh. The sigh that weary mommas everywhere know too well.
That’s when I overheard my daughters talking about romance.
They were young, with long ringlets of white blond hair slipping from messy ponytails. In one of the only uncluttered spaces, they had spread out an old sheet and arranged place settings of chipped porcelain tea cups for every doll they could gather up.
One girl whirled around in the second-hand store wedding dress, stating with confidence that someday, she would be swept off her feet and ride horses on a sandy beach. She paused for dramatic effect and added in her dreamy little girl voice, “It will be so romantic.”
Maybe I was disillusioned as I balanced the basket full of unwashed clothes on the elastic waistband of my sweatpants, but the word slipped out in the form of a question mark, “Romance?”
At that time, when I heard the word “romance,” I thought about all the wrong things. I had visions of extravagant displays of affection and roses left on my pillow. Or, on a day like this one, someone just doing the dishes would have made me swoon.
I had ideas that romantic love was for the beautiful and the charming. Not so much for an everyday kind of woman like me who hadn’t showered for two days.
One day I ran across the word “romance,” in our 1828 Webster dictionary. Some things don’t improve with modern revision and I would say Websters dictionary is one example of that. The tiny print stated that “romance” was, “fictitious and often extravagant, usually a tale.” It went on to say that romance, “vaults or soars beyond the limits of fact and real life, and often of probability.”
Who knew? In some ways, the idea of romance being described as fictitious was freeing.
It made me slightly more aware of how I’d bought into the Hollywood script of what romance, passion, and love look like.
In another unsettling way, it left me wondering about the disconnect I felt within me. The void that I felt in the mundane didn’t sound like the kind of display some people in the Bible had when they encountered Jesus.
The tax collector that was so drawn to Christ he climbed higher to capture a glimpse of him. The woman undaunted by lofty opinions when she poured out her love and expensive oil on Jesus. That lady who came to draw well water and left filled to the brim with Living Water that spilled over her hometown.
Now those people displayed some passion and I wanted to experience what they experienced.
I had an amazing husband, beautiful children, fulfilling work, and fun interests, yet I was still unsettled.
My faith had not eclipsed my insecurities and worldly pursuits.
I lived a very busy external life and a very shallow internal life.
This busyness kept me from the deeper things that God was always inviting me to. I read His Word but didn’t ingest it. I served on committees but didn’t have the heart of a servant. I wanted to love the hard to love, but I was missing the heart of the very people I was closest to.
Instead of doing things for God, I needed to spend time with God.
Intimacy at the core of its meaning is within-ness.
Slowly, gently, I began to encounter the hidden treasure of the Jesus-kind-of-love.
My eyes began to see the invisible and my ears began to sense the inaudible. The deepest part of my desire recognized the price of His passion ––for me. How love in marriage is long-maturing and lived out in the ordinary life and in the staying.
It finally occurred to me that the greatest Love Story of all time really is the one where Jesus left heaven and came to earth. How He conquered all that separates us from knowing Him and being known by Him. And now He really is the Prince who rides the white horse and has set a table for us to have communion with Him.
Little girls dancing in white dresses and talking about being swept off their feet is more reality than I thought. Children are so often able to embrace the mystery of Christ and His love for them because they come unhindered to the embrace of Jesus.
The great tragedy was that I sat in a church for years pretending to know the intimate love that Christ offers while longing to know its reality.
Thankfully, Jesus pursues us with great passion, longing for a response.
When I began to realize I had missed the heart of Christ, a new love story began to unfold. A romance of a different kind.
The mystery of this romance is how Christ loves us, inviting us on this wild, intimate ride of the heart and of the soul, unlike any romance this world can dream up.
This Jesus-kind-of-love is a dance, where He pulls us close enough to hear the beat of His heart while He whispers that we are His beautiful, cherished, esteemed, daughter.
God is the Author of romance with His long-suffering love.
The sacred mystery of it all is still unfolding.
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