If I had to divulge one thing that my marriage (and the dating relationship that led us to the altar) was missing, I would have to say romance. Sure, there have been a few glimpses of chivalry -- doors held open, mystery dates, and a wildly romantic overall love story -- but our day to day doesn’t hold much enchantment. My husband would be the first to admit that he doesn’t have the romance gene, and as much as I would love to think I am a starry-eyed visionary, it just isn’t who I am.
On more than one occasion, I’ve burst into tears telling Joey that I want more of the flirting dance that accompanies young love, regardless of how long we’ve been together. And while I don’t think it’s a bad thing to get a little giddy about the man I promised to love forever, I know my anger and frustration in those situations certainly wasn’t righteous.
The romance we see today isn’t exactly how God had purposed it. We see the flashy parts of celebrity relationships (including the fiery endings), and we hear the mushy love stories flaunted by well-meaning friends, because the yucky parts are, well, yucky. We know that real life romance can’t possibly be a 24/7 waltz with flowy dresses and red roses, but that’s what’s shown in the media. As Christians, we want to look for Godly examples of courtship, and in his new book, Loveology, John Mark Comer takes us straight to the source.
Not just any old song, the Song of all songs. Comer goes through the whole love poem, pointing out four marks of a healthy relationship -- specifically the dating relationship before marriage -- that we can find in the pages between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah.
The chase. The king, the male protagonist in The Song of Songs, invites the woman on a date. He woos her, because it's his job. Not that we as women should be passive in the whole thing, but Comer explains that it is the man's responsibility to pursue the woman, to draw her into a relationship, while the woman lets him know that she is waiting and wants to be pursued.
The line. Our culture is super sex-focused. You can't help but be reminded every time you walk into the grocery store or turn on the television. We're sexualized long before we're married, so how do we express our sexuality before our wedding night? Comer takes his advice straight from the Shulammite woman in The Song: "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." He paraphrases as not beginning the sexual part of a relationship until you can follow it all the way through. Don't go anywhere near the line -- that mysterious and wretched thing.
The friends. It might be a powerful love story, but the king and the Shulammite woman are not in it alone -- what good would a woman be without friends to talk with about her love life? The friends are there to affirm the relationship, and to offer their advice to the bride. Comer tells us that opening up your dating [and marriage!] relationship to people whom you know and trust is so important in setting up and maintaining a healthy relationship.
The journey to the altar. I've heard so often in young Christian circles the idea of kissing dating goodbye, and focusing on marriage before even entering into a relationship. While I think it's important to ultimately be looking for a godly spouse and not merely a boyfriend or girlfriend to hold hands with for a few months, I think some people take it a step too far. Ladies, you don't need to know whether the guy you're having coffee with for the first time is into marrying you. Guys, you needn't be ring shopping after the second awkward movie you take her to. But as Comer says, "all healthy relationships are either moving toward or away from marriage." The question, should we spend our life together? is a important bit of romance before marriage. In the dating period of a relationship, you're laying the foundation for marriage -- whether that house is built on sand or on the Rock.
You can pick up a copy of John Mark Comer's new book, Loveology, here.