Christian (quoting many others…). Moulin Rouge!
It's one of my favourite scenes from the movie, Moulin Rouge! A penniless writer convincing a jaded courtesan that the 'greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.'
In the movie it comes across as clichÃ©d, dreamy, idealistic and out of reach. Yet, it stirs something within deep within, doesn't it?
Certainly, love is the essence of life. And not just romantic love; love between friends, between families. Love captured by relationships. People reaching out to one another to know, and to be known.
Humanity is wired for relationships, and they are good for us. We are made to love, and be loved. We are made to know others and to be known. We sense it. We crave it. We long to feel understood and cared for. We long to know and feel as if we matter to someone. Like if we failed to take another breath, someone would notice.
When we try and imagine life without relationships; live in isolation, a dismal picture emerges, indeed. A small part of our humanity is lost when we are lonely.
So we build friendships, family ties and romances. We become vulnerable, in the hope that we will be accepted as we are.
Yet, relationships can be the single source of the greatest pain we can ever experience. People fail us. They break our hearts. They break our trust. We lash out and hurt those we love.
There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, is there?
Well, not between humans, I don't think. We're too broken and messed up to ever live up to the expectations we bring to our relationships. We are self-centred creatures at heart, and I believe every relationship failure comes back to this core heart-problem.
Our self centredness manifests in different ways; in self-protection, anger, greed, jealousy, malice, lying, cheating.
Why the longing?
So why do we have this longing for a perfect relationship if it seems we can't have it?
C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity;
'If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.'
Could the same be true for relationships? If we cannot satisfy our longing for a perfect relationship with another human, perhaps the best explanation is that we can only have this relationship with a Being of another world.
I believe that's God. The God of the Bible, who created humanity in his image – our relational longings included. We are relational beings because God Himself is a relational being.
And while we rebel against Him, ignore Him and mock His Son, there is a gulf between us. In God's perfection and holiness, this kind of rebellion cannot be ignored. What kind of love is that? To allow his creation to, like a toddler, defiantly kick his shins and pummel his arms, without God making any kind of reaction?
And even if we are sorry, how can we make it up to God? He already owns everything! There's nothing we could possibly do or give that would cover our iniquity.
But God has reacted. He has reacted in love by sending Jesus, who willingly, undeservedly, took on punishment we deserve.
Romans 5:8, 'But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.'
The penalty is paid; God's justice is satisfied, and forgiveness is now freely available.
We can have that perfect relationship we long for! And God will even fix our heart problem; the self-centredness issue, by making us a new person, inside and out. Not only can we enjoy a perfect relationship with God, but we can be a better friend/sister/cousin/brother/husband/wife/student/teacher to the people we are in relationship with.
A life without love is, indeed, a terrible thing. The only thing worse is a life without the love of God.
Sarah Urmston is based in Melbourne and shares a 5x7m flat with her husband, Stephen. She works with RMIT Melbourne's Christian Union group as an apprentice, and loves the privilege of sharing Jesus with the students. Since beginning student ministry, her desire – nay – need for coffee has grown exponentially.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html