Once upon a time there was a little girl. She shared her home with four others: her dad, her mom, her brother, and her sister. She loved them all. She grew up knowing that she was loved. Her parents provided all her needs, many of her wants, and gave her hugs and love each day. Her parents bought her and her siblings a puppy. They gave their kids a large yard to play in and freedom to be the unique individuals they were. Overall, it was an ideal home to grow up in. Of course there was the usual bickering between the children, but looking back it was minor. For the most part this little family got along. The parents loved each other too, and the home was one of peace.
This little girl grew and grew. Happiness continued in her life. Oh, there were of course hard times: the passing of a grandparent, the beloved dog being killed by a car, a few broken bones or surgeries among the siblings, disappointments over life’s little struggles, and the normal challenges that face families each day. But this family knew a secret for happiness. The parents taught the children about Jesus. The parents understood that not all of life is delightful and glorious, sometimes it’s rough. But they also knew that knowing Jesus helps each days trials and joys to be either easier or better! So they shared with their children the gift of faith.
Since the family had a background in faith, and a home where growth was encouraged through play, through education, through love, and through individuality the children in the home thrived. High school came and went, college came and went, and the two older siblings got married. The youngest girl wanted to get married too, but the time wasn’t ripe. So she waited, sometimes patiently, other times longingly. Her mother continued to share the secrets of happiness and truth rooted in faith. Her mother knew that this daughter of hers had a romantic heart. So one day the mother advised, “Romance is any time your spouse chooses to serve you out of love.” The daughter tucked that tidbit of information away, while telling herself but surely service with romance is ok too. The daughter thought romance involved dancing and kissing and sweet nothings.
As this young woman watched her sibling’s marriages, she still wanted one of her own. Long years passed before a suitor of her own came into her life. She had been on a handful of dates with a handful of different men, but none of them were the man for her to marry. But then this new young man came into her life. He was tender and giving. He treated her with respect. He looked into her eyes and said he loved her. He told her that he too believed in Jesus and thought that He is the foundation to happiness. But this young man was not a dancer and sweet nothings didn’t pour from his lips. Rather his lips told truths, spoke kindly, smiled easily, and made simple statements of love.
The young woman fell in love with this man. And the young man fell in love with her. So they finally arranged to marry. Before marriage the couple sat down to talk with their pastor. The pastor talked about the importance of Jesus in the relationship. The pastor asked about each of them and what they wanted out of marriage. The young woman eagerly talked of this extraordinary young man who had come into her life. And then she blurted out, “He’s not the most romantic man! But my mom once told me that romance is choosing to serve another out of love. And this man serves me!” The pastor picked up on that definition of romance and inquired more about it. He nodded his head gravely, as he believed in the worth of the saying.
After marriage the definition of romance would surface again and again. Every time the young woman wished he’d dance with her, she reminded herself that even though his knees ached he’d often agree to walk down around the lake with her in the evening, knowing she enjoyed that. When she wanted him to notice her more than he seemed to, she reminded herself that he had noticed that her car needed gas and filled it for her so she wouldn’t have to. When she wanted his arms around her in passion but he seemed more busy than usual, she reminded herself that he worked hard to provide her with a home and food and clothing. When she wanted sweet nothings, she remembered his truthful speech that told her she was just the right woman for him or that she could work on a certain sin issue in her life. Yes, this young woman had to learn that romance is not always what is seems.
Yet there were still moments when this young woman wanted her husband to meet her expectations in ways she felt he wasn’t. She wanted to be noticed and pursued. She wanted to be told she was lovable and beautiful. She wanted passion. She sometimes wanted things she couldn’t even identify easily. She just knew her heart had moments of struggle. She expected her young husband, despite his faithful service and constant tenderness, to express these romantic ideals according to her definition. But in these moments her definition of romance and love was again askew.
But then she decided to talk to Jesus about it. She knew that Jesus would have insight into all of the longings in her heart. So she said, “I want to be noticed and pursued, and sometimes my husband doesn’t seem to notice me.” And Jesus said, “My daughter, I stood at the door of your heart knocking, waiting for you to open to my love. I loved you so much that I walked to the cross for you. I pursued you into a relationship with me. Give your husband a break, he loves you well.”
So she said, “But I want to be told I’m beautiful and lovable. He does tell me he loves me, or that I’m cute. But I was hoping for more!” And Jesus said back, “Oh child! You are slow to understand. I died on the cross for you. You were a sinner and nothing lovely was in you, but as I went through agony for you, I showed you that you are worth dying for! And as for beauty, look to me: I am the embodiment of beauty. Righteous living is what makes a woman exude loveliness. Give your husband a break, he tells you he appreciates how you look and you know he appreciates your character. He even compliments you. He loves you well.”
Frowning, she tried again. She said, “But sometimes he’s busy and I want passion.” Jesus tenderly responded, “Young lady, you don’t know passion. Your husband is a good husband who serves you and meets your needs so well. He is passionate towards you. But I will show you passion. I was beaten for you. I went to the cross for your sins. I took your sin on myself. Passion is extravagant love. Your husband loves you well. Let him love you how he does, and let me love you how he can’t.”
The young woman pondered this. All that she wanted in her husband had already been given to her by her Lord. All that she expected out of her husband was actually freely given to her already –if she allowed her definition of romance to become love, service, provision, and faithfulness. She thanked Jesus for helping her see into her heart. She smiled for the truthful reminder that true love is patient, kind, forgiving, and self-sacrificing. She knew afresh that her husband loved her. In fact she knew deep down that he was generous in his love for her, because he was modeling the same love Jesus did. Every time he served her out of love he was, as her mother had long ago shared, defining romance in their home. She remembered too that occasionally a sweet card, a soft statement expressing her beauty, or flowers showed up.
The young woman smiled to herself again. Loved. She sighed, and pondered her mother’s wisdom. It was life -giving truth. She mentally noted that some day she’d have to thank her mom for teaching her of faith and truths about happiness and marriage.