This day represents many stages of love, maybe that of a surging river in peak season, or of a gentle stream settled in its age; beauty shimmering through its scars. Or perhaps more tragically, that of a morning mist, projecting deceptive shapes of hope, waiting to be dissipated by the inevitable sunrise- each stage gets its glory on this day. But something else may become evident in the lives of the romantically unattached and attached alike.
C.S. Lewis writes "[love] becomes a demon the moment it becomes a god" (The Four Loves) (Adapted from M. De Rougemont's original maxim). Turn on the radio. What do you hear? Broken men and women, lamenting broken love and despairing life. Maybe put in the Notebook and see a man waste into nothing when the woman he loves is taken from him. Walk into most churches and listen: 'The Lord has the perfect companion, moulded just for you.' Hear the gospel of love erotica ring: 'Come to me all who are lonely and I will give you a hand picked woman or finely sculpted husband, and then you shall have rest. '
I often view life through the lens of romanticism. I too see the beauty in mystery, revel in the inexplicable, yet innately understood. The bustling emotional life of a landscape. The poetry beckoning me to immerse myself in its prose. So as these inclinations move to that of human romance, they create an easy target for this gospel; which brings along several dangers.
A Functional Saviour Replaces the True Saviour
Most importantly, this gospel seeks to demolish the revealed glory of the risen Saviour Jesus Christ. In its place, it establishes a functional saviour: romance. Although, as most of us have seen, this functional saviour has no power; and so begins a turn of events that many of us have become all too familiar with (to the maritally bound and unbound alike). Hearts are broken, then apathy counter strikes the pain; joy is wounded until hope is found in another person (or found again in the same person)!
This cycle repeats it's sad charade again and again. Meanwhile, we ignorantly put our hope for future happiness in an 'all satisfying romance that has been written by the almighty.' How easy is it for us to put our hope in fulfilling romance that has been said to be our God-given destiny. In romance we trust, and our God we forsake.
Functional Saviour's Promises Turn Up Void
What follows is perhaps the climax of the idol making; the saviour begins to be revealed. To the coupled and uncoupled alike the turmoil stirs to the top. The heart wrenching despair, the loss of desire to move on. Or the demands of an unsatisfied spouse. The waves of anxiety followed by a certain hardening of a lost heart. The doubt of perseverance of marriage. Fear. Desire. Joylessness. The slow dance in a burning room as John Mayer so intuitively put. Here is when the demon is let loose: the savage fruit of false worship blossoming in our being.
We stand confused- promised fulfillment in dances through sunflower fields, embraces in the rain, a gift from a God and loving God- we find that even if we grasp them momentarily, they are a river ever filling but never full. How often have we embraced this gospel, only to see everything collapse.
Joy in romance is precisely what God intended. When a man leaves his home and clings to his wife, it is a deep mystery that is due reverence.
After all, it is meant to show dimly the relationship we have with Christ as a church. There is joy in this. Hope in this. Expectation and reward; but how easy is it for God to fade as romance shines, like the golden calf at Mount Sinai, a deity swap is being made. Just as the Israelites made a bull to show the strength of a God who brought them out of Egypt, we craft and sculpt the perfect romance through all of the proscribed waiting and trusting, while subtly our desire shifts from Giver to his gifts.
In the end we have a choice. Where do we place our hope of future joy? Is in the swirl of romance? Is it in our spouse or significant other? Or is it in the Saviour who lives? This means consciously rejecting the lies fed to us by pop culture that romance can fulfill. The lies fed to us by the members of the church; that if we wait and trust well enough, romance will bring fulfillment.
Bottom line, that we, as believers, need to wait to find fulfillment at all; when it is already given in Christ (Psalm 103, John 4, Psalm 63). Conscious acknowledgement of these truths goes a long way in the subconscious mind and spirit, the truth indeed sets us free. Taken out of the pantheon of our hearts love can move, freely reflecting the nature of the Father and bringing the fruit of joy the Father intended.
If we don't, 'Then they [loves] become gods. Then they become demons. Then they will destroy us and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves they become complicated forms of hatred' (C.S. Lewis)
Dan Peterson (22) is from Chicago, Illinois USA, currently living in St. Leonards, Tasmania, studying cross-cultural ministry (his final year). Dan is a musician and personal fitness trainer, who loves exploring the Australian bush.
Dan Peterson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/dan-peterson.html