The birth of romances often begin with a moment called the “meet-cute” (credit The Holiday). It’s that moment when the male and female lead characters meet, sometimes through bizarre circumstances. Darcy refuses to dance with Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. Danielle attacks Prince Henry in Ever After. Jack gets treated by Kate after a plane crash on a stranded island in Lost. We see the unexpected “meet-cute” in a lot of stories, movies and such. In concept, it’s what grows out of such an unexpected beginning that makes the love story so “romantic.”
Maybe you don’t find these kinds of love stories romantic at all (It takes the grace of God to get me through some of these rom-coms). But we all have our own distinct definition of what it means to be “romantic.” One writer calls romance “the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.” I like that definition, because it says a lot about how significant romance is. It makes life itself glow. It provides a deeper significance to every single day. Romance is essential to any relationship that wants to flourish in the way it was designed to. Nothing has changed over the centuries; we all want romance.
What has changed is how we go about finding that romance. What it means to “be romantic” in today’s culture is exponentially different from what it meant a hundred years ago. Consider another entertainment example,Downton Abbey, the British period drama set in the early 20th century. InDownton, it is an absolute scandal for a man to be in the same room as a woman wearing cover-all pajamas. “Romance” is purely courtship through the form of family-wide dinner parties, and bachelors do their bidding for women like Mary Crawley by talking history, hunting quail, and simply owning a car. By today’s standards, any box office movie void of at least one make-out or sex scene is no fit love story at all. Romance novels are pretty much over-the-counter porn. It’s not likely far off to believe many critics will hail the sexually-charged Fifty Shades of Grey as the best romance film of 2015, a film that Lady Grantham surely couldn’t sit through.
I think the Bible is very clear and can reveal much to us about our culture in this area. Our perceptions of what romance is and how we find it are not only changing, but they’re falling into a pit of degeneracy. We don’t want Darcy, we want debauchery. What’s causing this shift? Why is our society allowing itself to settle when it comes to romance? And the biggest question; how do we change this trajectory and salvage the meaning of romance? Certainly I’m no psychological or sociological expert. But the good news is that the Word of God has given us many ways to learn where we’re going wrong, and thankfully, how we can go right. If we’re going to pursue romance the Biblically acceptable way, what steps need to be taken?
Get off of Tinder and get on a date.
Is there anything that is a more accurate depiction of instant gratification than apps like Tinder? We have reduced the dating process to the simple swipe of a finger towards “Yes” or “No,” basing our conclusion off of a picture, age, location, and short bio. Many of these apps (apparently) serve the sole purpose of showcasing profiles simply in order to hook up. It’s weird to us when old men get in chat rooms and want to talk dirty to young people, yet it’s somehow normal for two people to hook up based off nothing but a Tinder avatar.
The fact that this even exists shows how much lust dominates love in our society. Lust is the pursuit of instant gratification. It asks, “What can you do for me?” Love is the pursuit of an authentic person. It asks, “What can I do for you?” If we want to pursue romance the right way, we have to make it authentic again. I haven’t used Tinder personally, but according to the stats, there’s a good chance users are being misled by those profiles. According toa study in 2012, 81% of people lie about height, weight, or age in their dating profiles. Over 4 out of 5. I think it’s safe to say, Tinder and its peers are far from authentic representations of people.
1 Peter tells us, “Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Pet. 3:3–4). The key to finding the imperishable beauty of true romance is not in the externals, but the internals. Therefore, we can’t start with just scanning profiles, picking and choosing data and making courtship a 5-minute process. We have to build friendships with people. We have to truly get to know authentic people, which is time-consuming and takes lots of honesty, offline or online. And for goodness sake, we have to stop creating a culture of “hooking up.” Let love, instead, be genuine (Rom. 12:9).
Men have to become men.
According to a recent study, single Americans make up more than half the population for the first time since the federal government has been keeping such statistics (1976). The graph of these percentages shows a steady incline since 1976 as well. Singleness is on the rise, and we all know divorce is on the rise, and who is to blame? Men.
I want to talk to men for a second. Because unfortunately, I think a major problem with the men in our society today is that we’ve forgotten what it means to court and pursue a woman. Courtship to many men today is evaluating a profile, marking “hot or not,” sweet-talking through texts and social media comments/messages, and “seeing where it goes.” Too often men are waiting on women to make the first move; we won’t take the step we were designed to take in the pursuit of romance, but instead choose to play games or watch sports. Today’s man says “I want to keep my options open,” which is normally code for “I don’t want to be tied down to one girl, because that takes commitment.” As long as men keep acting like “boys who can shave,” the percentages of singles in America will continue climbing.
We often spend a lot of time discussing women’s roles according to the Bible, but it actually has a lot more to say about men’s roles. For example, read Genesis 1–3 and mark down every time God holds Adam in a position of responsibility; you’ll see what I mean. From the very beginning of mankind, man was created to pursue, honor, love, and romance his female counterpart. Husbands must pursue their wives in the manner that Christ pursues His church (Eph. 5:25), and the same goes for a man who wants to date a woman. Paul exhorts men to put away their boyish tendencies (1 Cor. 13:11) and pursue manhood. For romance, that means getting in the Word and letting that become the fuel for your relationship.
Use the online world to your advantage.
You might think after reading a lot of what I’ve written that I’m against online dating as a whole. However, I feel that the online world can be a great resource for singles and those dating, though it takes a lot of discernment and care. It can be a really helpful tool in meeting your future spouse; the key is knowing how to and how not to use it.
Referring back to a recent post, you have to be willing to take off the mask that’s so easy to put up when online. Stop playing social charades, and start seeking authenticity for yourself and in others. Getting to know someone through social media is a great launching point, but it can’t sustain a lifelong relationship. Let it serve its role:
- Use it to eliminate obvious losers. The great part about Facebook is we can get figure out what someone is all about in around 3 minutes.
- Use it to meet people outside of your circle. Again, take great discretion in this area, but we can start to build friendships with people we may not normally come in contact with.
- Use it to evaluate where someone stands. Facilitate communication online. It’s easier for some people to talk over this medium than on a first date. Just let this be the launchpad. (Note: John Piper put out a great free eBook that provides some insightful questions to ask, some of which may be helpful conversation starters when getting to know someone online. I also recommend Tim Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage,” an excellent resource that explains the goals and implications of marriage, with a thorough chapter on singleness as well.)
What it means to “pursue romance” according to the world can be a very disturbing, unhealthy pattern of living. Fortunately, there is a solution. The solution is centering ourselves on the ultimate picture of love—the love of Christ, who gave Himself up for us His bride, adorned her with honor, and glorified her before all mankind. He has given us the example to live by in our earthly relationships, and now we can do the same. Let our pursuit of authentic romance reflect the divine romance we will rejoice in one day.