At one time, I thought I’d written the book on romance.
I packed picnic baskets, composed poetry, cooked meals extracted from Food & Wine magazine, spent hours in greeting card shops, arranged flowers, lit fires, collected bronzes and vintage wines, preferred “chick-flicks” to “blow-‘em-ups”, and I knew all the best city vantage points and restaurants.
Romance was not only a good thing — for me it was the only thing.
What really got my juices flowing were those intoxicating first date conversations. Probing questions, gently floated across candle-lit tables or during walks in the park.
Rick: “Who are you really, and what were you before, and what did you do, and what did you think?”
Ilsa: “We said no questions.”
Rick: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
So, what is the essence of true romance? It’s a fair and timely question given the cultural season of love that mid-February represents.
If I’d ever been asked for my opinion (which I wasn’t), to name just one element that contributes most to romance, without hesitation I would have said, “surprise”. The element of surprise can make ordinary acts seem extraordinary, while adding to the excitement and mystery of love.
But, it doesn’t always produce the desired results.
An internet video shows an ambitious young man proposing to his dream girl on the floor of a Houston Rockets basketball game at half-time. She was led to the center of the floor, where her suitor was waiting to propose on one knee. Shocked, and obviously uncomfortable, she rejected the poor fellow in front of thousands of fans, and ran off the court. Someone handed the dejected guy a beer in an effort to console him. One can’t help but feel sorry for someone who invested so much into a surprise, yet was so out-of-touch with a relationship.
Could romance be embodied through a perfectly chosen gift? A friend recently said: “Dinner and jewelry works for me!”
In our second year of marriage, I gave Melissa a “Bug Vacuum” — a long, clear wand with a battery-powered, trigger-activated vacuum, so she could reach uninvited spiders from the next county. Since my wife hates spiders, I figured this would be a home run gift. (Hint: I later discovered that love wasn’t in gifting the wand, but in me continuing to get the spiders!)
If the essence of true romance isn’t simply a gift or the element of surprise, but something more than those, then what could it be?
Atmosphere certainly comes into play. I’m personally drawn to eateries with nice lighting and decor. Given her family’s appreciation for well-prepared food, Melissa picks restaurants based upon how good the food is. I like to go somewhere with ambiance.
One Valentines Day when I was at seminary, (and when money for childcare was scarce), I secretly converted our bedroom into a café-style restaurant. During the late afternoon, while the kids were given permission to distract mum, I ran around like a maniac grabbing pieces of furniture, moving lamps, and hiding laundry in the closet. The location was perfect for all the reasons you can imagine, plus our kids would be just down the hall safe and snugly in their beds when the Pinot Noir was decorked.
To some of us, ambiance is important. To others, music is a key element of romance.
Music has a unique way of moving us. From the wandering poet-storytellers of the 13th century (who started all this romance stuff) to the hundreds of minstrels stuffed into our cell phone playlists, music zooms straight to our hearts.
Ilsa: “There’s still nobody in the world who can play ‘As Time Goes By’ like Sam.”
Rick: “He hasn’t played it in a long, long time.”
Music has awesome romantic potential, but could it still be more than that? How about the pursuit? Guy chasing gal. Nothing better than that!
A few of you know I met Melissa on a cycling trip on the Oregon coast. While it’s a funny and colourful story, it was also a challenging pursuit for me. She was in way better shape, and I forgot to pack bike shorts. That’s the executive summary.
When Melissa and I get together with other couples, we just love hearing stories about how and where they met.
Rick: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Killer gifts, the element of surprise, romantic ambiance, music of the heart, and the thrill of the pursuit are all exciting elements of romance. But, where I once thought that’s all there was, I now know I missed the heart of the matter.
For me now, the essence of true romance is captured best in this piece of Hebrew wisdom:
Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer —
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.Proverbs 5:15-19
This beautiful passage from the Creator of relationships, is saturated with themes of marital fidelity, captivation and delight. It seems to be saying that the essence of true romance is remaining continually committed, satisfied and fascinated by the husband or wife with whom God has gifted you.
Due to the intimacy inferred, it’s not a dating thing. But, it’s not just an anniversary or a once-a-year St. Valentine’s thing either.
Rather, it’s an ongoing fascination that blooms and flourishes over time as husbands and wives invest in each other, honouring (and therefore, worshipping) God as they do so. That’s the key I totally missed when I was younger. Thankfully, it’s what I’m appreciating now.
Ilsa: “Kiss me … kiss me as if it were for the last time.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on …
- What’s the most romantic thing someone has ever done for you?
- What, in your opinion, is the essence of true romance?
- Where does the element of surprise fit into your concept of romance?
Blessings on your home,
P.S. If you are wondering who Rick and Ilsa are, grab a map of Africa and look just south of Rabat on the Moroccan coast for a subtle clue.