Romance is something that people have to work at. It's one of those things that people aren't born good at. How could you be born good at it? The last time I checked, no one was born married. And, while we are at it, let's not confuse sweetness with romance. What is romance anyway? Is romance buying roses, or chocolate, or pearl necklaces? Is it dinner and a movie? Or, is it the moments of cuddling just after sex?
If I could point to only one thing has affected our perception of love and romance so much that we can't recognize it anymore, I would point my finger in the face of the media. Can someone please tell me what romance really is? I've bought dozens of roses and given the finest of chocolates but I can tell you that what I was doing was not love. It was not romance. It was sweet, and nice, and thoughtful, but not love. Even the most cold-hearted cynic can afford some roses and some chocolate. Can one really say anymore that sex is the true sign of romance? I couldn't say that.
Our culture is over-sexed. Sex is everywhere. Sex sells cars. It sells alcohol. It even sells fast-food. But, it can't sell me. It's become a trite thought, an expectation for couples. Can I pose a question? What happened to commitment? I don't see it anymore. People are so obsessed with the physical, with what they can get from another person, that they forget that commitment is important. It is not just important. It is beyond important.
We can be foul creatures. We can be heartless, and cold, and brutal to one another. I've never been affected by a movie quite like I was after I watched "Closer." It's a movie about four people who do nothing but screw each other. They don't make love, they don't get intimate. They act like animals. They try so desperately to get what they need that they don't think of how it will affect their partners. And, it bothered me. It bothered me because that is what I see when I look around. It's an expectation that I see in the world today and it's one that I desperately want to avoid.
Yes, sex is good, but why the obsession? Why the trivialization? Why do we flippantly give ourselves away to the next person who asks for our bodies? This kind of behavior cheapens who we are. Someone once said, "What are we without the truth? We would just be animals." I say, "We're still animals with the truth." We act like it anyway.
When I look at couples today, it reminds me of the Church. I see people who are afraid to let the Church into their lives, obsessing over the feelings of elation that come with worship and come with hearing the Word of God. They forget that commitment, even when the Word seems as if it is running dry, is a virtue that is invaluable. Commitment positions all other things. When someone commits to a church body, it is no longer about what one can receive. It is about what one can give.
This is the image of Christ. Unendingly, He gives Himself to us. To profit us. To nurture us. To lift us up. We should respond accordingly. This is the kind of lover I want to be. The one who, without question, remains committed. Who understands that money, and gifts, and even sex do not equal romance. Romance is assurance. It is true intimacy, not just physical. It is allowing each other into the most sacred places of who we are. It is going alongside your lover and lifting them up, sharpening them into a better person, more like the image of God. Above all else, it is commitment to one another without the possibility of abandonment to the next best thing. If this is what you can find with another person, then there is no "next best thing." You already have the very best thing you can.
-Originally written January 21, 2007