“There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand… the way of a man with a virgin.” Proverbs 30: 18-19.
We are fascinated with “falling in love.” I can’t nor want to eliminate all its mystery. But I can offer some insight.
“Falling in love” describes an entrance into the enjoyment of romance. Romance is good; not the same as sacrificial love or affection, but good. It is a mood and a feeling. A person can never have a girlfriend or boyfriend and never marry and still enjoy romance. There is romance in beautiful scenery, in quiet moments, and family gatherings. Romance is the sense that I am in the midst of something wonderful. Romance then may be experienced more often by those who are sensitive, unhurried, and grateful. And the “way of a man with a virgin” is so exotic that most anyone can catch the romance of it.
Romance should be the beautiful accompaniment to a blessed relationship. It should prompt us to praise God. It can stimulate us to prepare to serve loved ones. And romance is just plain enjoyable.
But relationship romance can be dangerous. It is sometimes generated when a suitable relationship doesn’t exist. Someone can mistakenly identify a live person as the daydream person with whom he or she “fell in love” long before. Then the romance is taken as grounds for a serious relationship.
Daydreams, like guesses, should be educated. Learn from wise people the qualities you’ll need to sustain a healthy, pleasant relationship. Let them help you identify those qualities in others. Take time for a mature knowledge of yourself, time to adequately know another person, and time for the “fruit of the Spirit” to grow in you.
It’s humorous to think that “falling in love” is like “falling asleep. Falling asleep seems to be an unconscious, somewhat involuntary activity. We cannot cause it to happen instantly. It sneaks up on us. We are not conscious of the moment it takes over. But falling asleep generally happens to people who want to be asleep, at approximately the time they planned for it to occur, and it is most likely to occur when the person enters conducive conditions (darkness, warmth, soft pillow, etc.). Also, the process can be resisted and postponed (Ever stay up all night?).
Likewise “falling in love” seems to be an unconscious, somewhat involuntary activity. It doesn’t happen instantly. It seems to sneak up on us. We may not be conscious of the moment it takes over. But “falling in love” generally happens to people who want to be “in love,” near the time they assumed it would, when they enter conditions conducive to its occurrence, and the process can be resisted with amazing success.
The point of this analogy is that you must accept responsibility for your romantic involvement. Do not become romantically involved with the wrong person. Should you find yourself slipping into an inappropriate relationship, take steps to end it.
Romance is like the aroma of meat on the stove. That aroma is splendid along with tasty meat. But it is not sustaining. If the meat burns, the aroma leaves disappointment.
A sweetheart relationship makes for romance. But romance by itself doesn’t make a good relationship. Caution is required because it’s possible to have a romance without the framework of a healthy relationship. Romanticizing a poor relationship is like eating globs of frosting without any cake. It’s sweet for a while, but you will be left unnourished, unfulfilled, and maybe with a stomachache. Make sure the “cake” (the relationship) agrees with you, then enjoy the frosting as part of the cake.
Most any heart can taste romance. It takes wisdom to (1) recognize the potential, and (2) construct the framework for a good marriage. A major source for this wisdom is parents. It is wise to establish dating relationships under their guidance. Parents should try to establish the assumption that they will help guide relationship choices. Young people should seek parental guidance.
Relationship romance: maybe so, maybe no, take it slow. Sweetheart romance is one of the many and varied gifts God gives. Think of it like the ability to carry a tune, which is a gift – calling for praise to God. But don’t treat it as the key to a happy life. Don’t feel sorry for yourself if you don’t have it. You have too many other good things to enjoy to lament over one you don’t have.
Although I have a high regard for the ability to carry a tune and have sometimes wished I could more consistently, it has occurred to me to be glad that I can’t. For my time and attention has often been crowded with trying to utilize to the fullest the opportunities and capacities I have. Another capacity could add to a sense of unfulfilled possibilities and distract from specializations appropriate for me. This, it seems to me, is akin to the message of I Corinthians 7: 32-35.
Be cautious about romance attached to premature and inappropriate relationships. Try to avoid prompting someone to give you his or her deep emotional devotion unless you are prepared to return that devotion in marriage. Be slow to express special affection. A young person typically “falls in love” with the idea of marriage long before he or she is ready to select a mate. During the intervening years of maturing, the young person should be learning more about himself and about the opposite gender. During these years he or she may decide that he(she) prefers one kind of person. However, his specific favorite may change periodically. That is typical and should be harmless. But announcing the identity of the current favorite can be more trouble than it’s worth.
Even when a mutual attraction is obvious to all concerned, don’t make the relationship binding or “steady” unnecessarily or prematurely. Be slow to turn attractions into proclamations or friendships into alliances. Savor the romance that comes with a good relationship. Don’t lick the frosting before the cake has baked.