Category Archives: Spring 2017

Kneeling and Hanging: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

It is the Feast of the Passover.

All of the sudden, Jesus gets up from the table, takes off His garments, and girds Himself with a towel. He pours water into the basin and kneels before His closest friends, His twelve beloved disciples. As a servant would to a master, He begins washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel.

He gets to Simon Peter, and immediately Peter stops Him.

“Lord, do You wash my feet?”

Peter has been watching Jesus wash the feet of the disciples in line before him, and he’s shocked. How dare they silently let their master kneel before them and wash the dirtiest part of their body? The roles should be reversed– don’t they know that?

Standing up for the dignity of his master, Peter exclaims,

“Never shall You wash my feet!”

But Jesus replies rather strangely,

“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Wait, wait, I take it back, Peter thinks. Rashly, he begs,

“Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”

. . .

Somehow, I find myself in this very moment.

I am Peter– impulsive, ridiculous, and obnoxious in the way that he loves Jesus.

He does not exactly understand what is happening yet, and when Jesus keeps talking about leaving, he is confused and hurt.

“Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.”

All Peter wants in this moment is to be with His Lord, His master, His friend. He would even give up his life for Him.

Yet later that evening, as soon as Jesus leaves his sight, Peter will deny knowing Him to three people.

“I do not know this man you are talking about!”

And again, I find myself standing in the shoes of Peter– this time, scared, defensive, in hiding, his back toward Jesus and his face turned away.

. . .

But right now, we are still back in the upper room of a house, sharing the Feast of the Passover, not knowing what is to come in the hours ahead.

Except one person.

Jesus, still kneeling before me, stares straight into my fickle, hypocritical eyes, sees me denying Him not once, but three times, and continues to wash the dirtiest part of my body.

And tomorrow, though we do not know it yet, He will hang on a cross, with thorns piercing His head, nails hammered into His hands and feet, humiliation and mockery flooding His ears.

He will hang there for six hours, with not just my face turned away but even more painful, His own Father’s, and He will wash away, this time, the dirtiest part of my soul. And at the sixth hour, He will breathe His last, but breathe into me my first.

I do not know what to make of this quite yet; my mind simply cannot wrap around the utter humility of this God that I serve. But this is the gospel, and this is the Jesus we are commemorating this Holy Week.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Letter to My Freshmen Self

By Pedro Enamorado, Class of ’17

Dear First-Year Me,

You are about to have the most incredible three years of your life. The two-year school you transferred from, Miami-Dade College, is nothing like Yale. These years will also be filled with more fear, sorrow, and confusion than you can know. Take in every sight, enjoy every autumn leaf, be yourself until you learn to be more socially graceful. It’s going to get uncomfortable sometimes, but it will turn out well. You’ll realize your impressions of cartoon characters can get old (whoops!), and you’ll notice your friends kindly using their pity laugh at times. But one day you will make some quality dank memes (and you will love the rising meme culture). Some days, you will find yourself eating lunch in Commons, feeling homesick and listening to music to help you feel better. But an entire Stiles suite will adopt you and have dinner with you regularly, and you will adore your a cappella family: Living Water! You will have secret crushes and a not-so-secret ones and you’ll experience your first real heartbreak. Boy, will it sting. But you will learn more about deep, meaningful friendship through the people God will put in your life. Friends will be with you when your grandmothers pass a month apart and when you don’t even know how to categorize levels of loneliness or worry. And you will experience God’s presence in these moments in ways you could never imagine.

You will be stretched and more disciplined than you can imagine; you’ll finally realize how far God can take you. You will revive a Christian publication with only four members and watch it grow and survive past your graduation! You will often think you’re not the right man for the job in your informal and formal leadership – but you are the one God will use. You will finish certain days with a kind of weariness like you’ve never experienced. Believe it or not, there are limits to your extroversion, and your energy and love for people will fall short of all the people you want to spend time with. You will find your voice as a historian and political thinker! You’ll even write a 44-page thesis about your family’s Honduras, many blog and Facebook posts, and even a paper about Venetian pirates. But you will also feel the hurt of B-minus and C-plus papers, and the frustration of seeing papers you thought were bad get an A-minus and papers you pour your heart and soul into get the same grade. This is the new normal. But your pride will begin to crumble, and you will learn to stop condemning yourself for your inadequacy. This is one place where you had not let God’s grace apply where you will really need it.

Cling to God because you will learn how much you really need Him. There are opportunities to fall to temptation here that did not exist back home. There will be people that you will have to cut off, and others you will need to learn to forgive. You will try to use people to quell the deep pangs of loneliness you sometimes get- please don’t. They will fail you and you will hurt yourself, and sometimes hurt them. You will have a fight with your dad and not talk to him for a month because you are more prideful, spiteful, and resentful than you know. But reconciliation will be so beautiful and you will create new memories with your dad and learn how much he loves you. You will see God break through your fears and cowardice in so many other relationships because you will find yourself confessing sins and secrets, but it will only serve to help you grow.

Let me sum it up with this: you will learn the meaning of worship. You will see how weak and powerless you are, especially as you grow to know Jesus more. When you sing hymns and songs and lead yourself and others into worship, you will proclaim God’s saving power and cry, “Hosanna! Save, O Lord!” And you are going to mean it. Finally, when you walk across the aisle to lay hold of your diploma, you will know without a doubt that God’s faithfulness followed you all the way there.

Love,

Senior-Year Pedro

Dead Come to Life

By Chris Kim, Class of ’20

We often like to think of ourselves as untouchable, living as if we are able to choose the day death arrives on our doorstep. We don’t realize the gift of life, and we take for granted every breath we take. For the first time in my life this past spring break, however, death flashed before my eyes, and I was reminded of the incredible fragility of life and the importance of centering our focus on what is truly important in life, which is to seek truth. Granted, I have faced near death experiences before; in Japan, my mom, sister, and I almost got hit by a motorcyclist. Another time, our car was totaled on a crowded freeway in Los Angeles. While both of these experiences could very realistically have ended in my death, I was either too young or the event too short-lived for me to truly ponder the possibility of me dying. This past week, however, I confronted death in a way that I never have before.

On Wednesday, I had decided to swim some laps at the gym to work off all the food I had been eating over spring break. I swiped in and was greeted by the familiar smell of chlorine, freshly laundered towels, and cheap body wash. I changed into my dad’s swimming trunks and shuffled to the pool in my flip-flops. The water was comfortably warm, and I stretched before taking off. While I like to think of myself as an endurance runner, swimming is a whole different ball game. After two laps I was panting in the water, my heart racing furiously. As soon as I had caught my breath I took off again, taking a break after every two or three laps. On the fourteenth lap, I was immensely tired. I leaned out of the water to catch my breath but unlike before, I felt nauseous. After a few minutes of trying to catch my breath, I decided maybe it was a good time to stop. I had swum for about 40 minutes, and I was too tired to continue. As I got out of the pool the nauseating feeling increased. Grabbing my towel and flip-flops, I left the pool into the locker room and made my way to my locker. With each step, the weight upon my chest increased, and I plopped on a bench to catch my breath. I was struggling to breathe, and my vision started fading.

In that moment, it occurred to me that I could be dying. In between breaths, I cried out to Jesus. I asked him to save me and to give me another chance. I do not know what struck me to say that, whether it was out of pure panic or fear of not being ready to go. As I think back, I wonder why I could not say that I was ready to die. Approaching God’s judgment seat in that moment was a fearful thing. In death, there is no turning back, no last minute good deed, no “winging-it.” Death is the end of our earthly lives and we are judged by God by how we lived our lives. As soon as I began to lose vision, I cried out for help. Four gym staff members rushed around me and began asking me questions. At first I answered in between long gulps for air, but to my immense relief, I began to regain my breath, and my heart rate began to stabilize. I focused my vision and answered their questions more completely. I was all right.

I used to think of death in two ways. In a world wrought with war and conflict, I often thought of death as the result of violence. We hear in the news about the death toll in the Middle East or victims of a recent shooting. The second picture I have of death is the slow, painful process my grandmother went through as a cancer patient. After this experience, however, I realize that death can steal us in the blink of an eye when we are least expecting it. My mom used to say, “While there is an order to when we come into the world, there is no order to when we leave it.” We all come into the world expected to take the reigns from our parents and from society, but there is no chronology in death. As tragic as it may be, many parents bury their children, accidents occur, and the futures we create for ourselves vanish in an instant. The Psalmist was right when he said, “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16).

This close experience with death opened my eyes to how simple life really is and how complicated I have made it. I get paralyzed in decisions about what I should do over the summer and fear making choices that might negatively affects my future. But in the end, who knows how long I have to live? It is only by the grace of God that we are still alive; every breath we take is a gift from Him. Why do we live for tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, when today might be our last? Jesus says to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. He calls us to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded us and has promised to be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). God has given me more time to live, and I want to deepen my faith in Him above all things. I want to know God just as tangibly as I know the people I am closest to here on Earth but I want to love Him far more deeply than any human relationship. For me right now, I feel that means to grow in wisdom and knowledge of His words in the Bible and to understand more fully my sinful nature and my need for God’s forgiveness. With the time I have left, I want to love others as Jesus loved others, boldly proclaiming the gospel in both grace and truth, while also forming Christ-centered relationships that mutually push us toward Christ. I need to be ready so on that day when I stand face to face with God, whether tomorrow or many years from now, I will be able to run into His arms and hear Him whisper into my ear the sweet words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

The Fourth Scar

By Nancy Walecki, Class of ’20

I have a scar. When I look in the mirror in the right light, it takes the form of a neat, diagonal, pen stroke across the very top of my forehead, from the furrow in my brow to where it disappears into the hair above my temple. But when I only touch it and do not see it, it becomes a mountain range, filled with uneven peaks and valleys and jagged detours of knotted, sturdy flesh. If I tap my fingers lightly, I can feel the bone beneath that I saw once, before the mountain range converged and hid my inner-workings from me again. I remember it contrasted beautifully with the red—alabaster discovered during an excavation for rubies.

I had three scars on my body before, but I always kept them covered. This fourth one though is a force of nature. It’s the big scar. It rests right on my face, the Rocky Mountains meandering their lazy way over gentle skin. I can’t cover it; it’s not going anywhere. The moment my life was sent in another direction, the aftermath of skull hitting marble, will forever be on permanent display.

When you are scarred, it means your body knew it was so weak that it opened itself up for a moment to be filled with Something stronger than just the bone and organs that live inside of it. The human body is full of atoms, and atoms are 99.99999% empty space. If an atom were a football stadium, the nucleus would be an orange in the middle of the field and the electrons would be pinheads in the parking lot—everything else would just be Emptiness. So, it turns out, our bodies are mostly made out of nothing. They are Empty. Scars happen when all the Emptiness can’t take it anymore and it bursts through the seams, desperate for Something to fill it up. Your atoms pry you open for a moment in order to show you that inside your body is just flesh and bone–that beneath your skin is a blank slate waiting to be colored with Something more than hearts and lungs and muscles.

I have four scars. I also believe in Something with a capital “S.” Before I hit my head, I had three hidden scars and a little Something. After I fell, I had four scars and a lot of Something. I am calling it Something now, but to me, it is God. To a boy I loved, it is Allah; to my former teacher, it is Not Up For Discussion Right Now; to the woman who taught me yoga, it is the Universe; to the girl at the bakery with the healing crystal on the counter, it is Karma; but to my best friend from home, who lives perpetually in honesty and openness, always looking to fill herself up with what is true and right, it is Something.

Scars are a moment when you say to yourself, oh I guess I’m not invincible after all. It’s a moment when your body tells you so clearly that it is just flesh and bone, that there’s a huge amount of weakness in just being a person made out of insubstantial atoms. It’s a moment when you are briefly opened and exposed, more than you ever have been, before your body brings its seams together again, tighter and filled with a different stuff than it was before–a stuff that saves you from the limitations of the physical and opens you to the Something that really matters. Scars are going out on that emotional limb and asking someone, Have you ever felt this way too? Scars are standing in the middle of a city and realizing how small you are; they are asking for help when you know you need it; scars are trauma; scars are weakness. Scars are a reminder that maybe we aren’t the end all and be all of everything–that there are forces outside of our control acting upon us.

I have a friend with no scars. At least, none that she shows anyway. She believes that succeeding is living a life free of falls, of weakness, of scars–a life without Something. She asks me why I have not put scar cream on my forehead, and in that question, I know we are different. A life without scars is hollowness, in which your atoms quietly ache in their Emptiness, nothing there to open them up to that stronger Something. There is nothing more inside of you, other than the vacancy you were born with, nothing that can bring your life beyond the Emptiness of the physical to the complexity and richness of the spiritual. If you took out all of the empty space in our bodies and condensed our atoms, the entire human race lumped together would just be the size of a sugar cube. So, only a microscopic portion of one grain of sugar belongs purely to us – the rest of ourselves belongs to nothing, or Something, depending. In their natural state of nothingness, your atoms are not filled with the courage that compels you to tell someone how your day really went, nor the peace that softens stiff upper-lips and untangles your roots long enough to wrap around someone else’s. This life built upon the purely physical relies on the belief that you are that Something: that you are a single actor upon this world and that you are subject to nothing beyond your own control. Since all that space between your atoms is seemingly insignificant, there can be nothing greater in this world except you to fill you up. If it’s all about you, you’re going to make yourself look good, dammit, and scars are pretty ugly.

I love Something. I love It so much that sometimes I don’t mind the scar on my forehead because it is what infused my atoms with Something. My scar makes me feel as though I am made of a stronger stuff than just flesh and bone. My scar is not an imposition on something untainted, but the remnants of that strong and sturdy Something that came into me and gave me the strength to endure the many scars to come. Scars hurt—it’s true. I can still remember waking up with my fourth scar and my entire body absolutely humming with so much feeling. Every nerve was supercharged. I am no longer in pain, but I am still humming. That Something allows me to feel more, love deeper, and rest easier.

I feel so sorry for my friend with no scars. She lives in a world so small that the only occupant is herself. She is looking for Something, but she believes It is found in security and perfection. She will never know how Something floods you when you tell someone else the mistakes you’ve made that keep you up at night, or the peace you feel when you throw up your hands to Something and say, Can you help me out? I think she is afraid because scars hurt. Scars are disorderly and grotesque. Scars are painful, but I can also tell you that Something certainly isn’t.

I have a scar. It runs along the surface of my forehead and then ducks underneath where no one can see it, and winds its way throughout every bit of me. My scar is weakness sewn back together with Something much stronger: a Something that lets me laugh in the face of the anxieties we create for ourselves, a Something that is home no matter where I am, a Something that lets me look in the mirror and see the strength of the Rocky Mountains stand in perfection atop someone very weak, but very much at peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to Dance

By Constance Thurmond, Class of ’19

As a dancer, I am constantly aware of how I look. Every movement, muscle, breath, and articulation consists of a fine balance between precise anatomical awareness and artistry. As challenging as this is, I take pleasure in attempting to find the equidistant point that lies between these two facets of dance.

For thousands of years, choreographers, influenced by their cultures and contexts, have had different ideas of where this equidistant point lies. Some believe dancers should be muscular and powerful, while others lean towards graceful and elegant. Some think that dance should tell a story, yet others, believe that there is no story to be told. In this area, I am not an expert, as it is my job to serve as the paint that is guided by their brush. As paint, I seek to master each variance and discrepancy present within a respective choreographer’s work, and then perform this yin and yang of style to those who are willing and able to engage with it.

However, this enterprise does not come with ease. You see, the creator understands their desired outcomes more than anyone else. To them, it requires a great amount of trust and effort to have their work put on display by those who did not create it. When given this task, I first must remind myself that I am not the creator. It is not my responsibility to take their work, reinterpret it and then assemble what I believe to be a better rendering of their original creation. Instead, I am entrusted to persuade both the audience and myself of exactly where the choreographer’s equidistant point lies. If this is done incorrectly, a piece may be perceived as cheesy, perhaps inauthentic. If this is done well, it becomes sincere, perhaps alluring. More importantly, what was intended is now complete.

The more I dance, the more I have learned to trust the process. I try my best to withhold my own tendencies so that in the end, I may gain something more beautiful. In doing so, I am not losing myself, but instead, exploring my limitations and extending my boundaries via someone else’s work. I grow when I learn how each choreography has the capability to become my own, in the living being that is my anatomy, while still keeping with the creator’s original design. Any true reformation of our creative output can only come from how we engage with the deepest places of our personhood.

To me, most things in life can be related back to dance. It is important to be flexible, agile, intelligent, powerful, firm, yet humble and kind. It is crucial to constantly grow, be willing to admit our mistakes, and embrace our successes. Lastly, it is absolutely necessary that we learn how to dance, in the most beautiful and hideous of situations.

In this dance we call life, God entrusts us with His master choreography. He gives us instructions, but He cannot force us to perform them exactly the way He intended. He knows we have the capability to mold something either wonderfully sincere or horribly inauthentic, yet by grace we are given the privilege of shaping His creation.

As a dancer, you must ask yourself: How can I make His choreography, the ultimate choreography, my own, while still sticking to the Creator’s true intent? How can I take ownership of this work of art without taking all of the glory?

This, my friends, is both the challenge and beauty that we must embrace and constantly strive to understand in our Christian lives.

Shorelines

By Christian Olivier, Class of ’20

Stuttering. According to the National Stuttering Association (Yes, it exists.)[1], it is “what happens when you have too much tension in the muscles that help you produce speech or when those parts of your body involved in talking don’t work together.” As is the brain of a stutterer, there is no anatomical harmony. One camp is moving much faster than the others. For me, that was my brain. My speech pathologist said my thoughts were going faster than my mouth could keep up. It was a twisted form of the Tortoise and the Hare, except slow and steady was not winning the race.

Imagine you’re in a dream, and you have a bad guy chasing you. You run and run and run, but he’s on you. You then turn to defend yourself. You are ducking and weaving his attempts to hurt you and even get some punches in yourself, then… what the heck? As if out of nowhere, you can’t throw a punch. Your arms feel like they have cinderblocks tied to them. You are left vulnerable as your right hook bounces uselessly off your captor’s face.

Well, that was what speaking felt like for me. Words of any kind became a constant struggle. I would plot and scheme to get out of talking in front of the class or on the telephone. My head no more than a tornado of my thoughts, I knew that I would begin presenting something that had a short and bitter end. It would go well at the beginning. Then out of nowhere there would be a pause. My next words did not make it to my tongue. They were trapped in my throat, trying to escape with sounds of “a-a-a” and “h-h-h,” sometimes even resorting to a self-loathing snicker.

So I would stand there, wiping my hand across my now sweat-glistened forehead, seeing the eyes of my classmates and friends longing for something—anything—from this statue standing in front of them. Then seeing their eyes turn from longing to apathy. Knowing that I had the world to say to them, but no voice to say it with. I fell on my own sword and lost my stage. Lost my words. I knew that the words in my head had been lost forever. Sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Never coming close to any shoreline.

Then I decided to do Speech Pathology in seventh grade. When that didn’t work, I began to practice on my own. I’d talk to myself until I knew how to avoid that stupid stutter. I took more breaths and tried to go into conversations unprepared, so my brain couldn’t move too fast. I would never pre-write any of my speeches for Beta Club. The most useful tactic, though, was just looking up for a split second and letting there be a long pause. I would attempt to say what was on my mind in a different way, using different words and different tones. Or sometimes I would just not say anything at all. My mom said sometimes what was on my mind didn’t need to be said. The world wasn’t ready for it.

Then what happens to the world when I can speak unabashedly? When I don’t have to compromise my thoughts?

Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you?

I found nirvana in the world of writing. A world more complex than pitches and tones. I can’t tap the microphone or snap my fingers to keep you on the edge of your seat. My words have to do that. Each word has to make you look forward to the next one while savoring the last one. This is how I win the battle. Using the right adjectives, but not too many adverbs. Making my verbs extravagant, but not nerdy. Dissecting every sentence without blurring my message. Because words are all I have. Words are my only weapons. Stringing them together without fear of the heart-wrenching silence is an oasis in my life.

But why are words this precious to me- or to anyone?

Because words, whether spoken or written, carry so much depth. Once said, they can’t be taken back. Speaking is such an important part of our identity. Even if it is harder for some than others. No one should feel as if they are wasting their time on an inattentive audience. I’ll never get back the breath it takes to speak. I’ll never get back the precious few minutes I have to convey what’s on my heart. To give my audience a piece of who I am. That is why I can leave my words on paper. To leave it for centuries to come. No one even has to read it. My writing can be a message in a bottle, floating around in the ocean of life until the end of time. Regardless of whether there is or isn’t a shore.

I write because I worship a God who gave us Himself. Because “In the beginning was the Word,” and these words were so powerful that we savor every letter. He sent scripture that was “God-breathed” and perfectly structured to keep us on our heels. Scripture that says He sent His own son to save mankind from their unforgivable mutiny. He gave us a love that we did not deserve and challenged us to spread that love. To spread the love that is unceasing and void of inattention and lingering pauses. To spread the love that moves mountains and controls the wind and the rain. To let the world know that our life is beautiful and that there is hope for anyone with air in their lungs. And how am I supposed to do that without words? How can I spread that love when I am upstaged by the whims of the world around us? By my own mind?

Well I take back what’s His by turning to something void of pauses. Something you can’t ignore. Because I know you don’t have to be reading this. You could easily be reading something else. Listening to something else. Watching something else. But, with no one other than God to thank, you aren’t. You’re right here, staring at me through the words on my page. Listening to my voice with your ears still covered. Letting me speak with my mouth closed and my forehead dry. Being my lighthouse as my words find their way onto your shore. Soaking in what I wish you could hear me say.

You are loved more than any words can describe.

 

[1] http://www.westutter.org/who-we-help/families/elementary-school-age-kids/what-is-stuttering/

What is God’s Purpose for Romance?

By Chris Matthews

My first experience with the mysterious power of romance came in the sixth grade. There was a girl in my grade who had gone mostly unnoticed by me in previous years. But suddenly and without warning, she began to have a dramatically different effect on me. Close physical proximity caused unexplained physical reactions: sweaty palms, a racing pulse, and an almost complete incapacity of speech. There were also emotional effects. I was excited at the prospect of her presence, anxious and terrified when she was present, and saddened when I expected her to be present and she was not. It went on for more than two years. It had shocking effects on my life. It filled my thoughts and daydreams and it impacted what I wore, who I wanted as friends, where I wanted to be, even what music I enjoyed. All the while, I had little to no relationship with the object of my romantic obsession and just a superficial knowledge of what she was really like.

Almost every post-pubescent human being can recount their own experience with the mysterious power of the romantic impulse. It is something distinct from physical or sexual attraction, fueled by emotion instead of libido. Philosophers and psychologists have labored to explain the origin and purpose of the romantic impulse. In Plato’s Symposium, six Athenian philosophers discuss it while praising the deity Eros. Aristophanes proposes that humans are descended from beings with spherical torsos that were split in two by the gods, and the romantic impulse is a desire to return to the original form. Socrates proposes that the romantic impulse must be a result of a lack of being, specifically the lack of beauty. For much of the 20th century, the Oedipal theories of Sigmund Freud dominated thought about the source of both romantic and sexual impulses among psychologists. Other psychologists, such as René Girard, argued against Freudian theories, proposing the source of the romantic impulse is instead rivalry and jealousy as individuals observe attraction between others. There have also been more utilitarian explanations for romance. Arthur Schopenhauer tracks the romantic impulse to simply the will-to-live impulse that leads to a desire to produce attractive progeny. Still others, such as former Yale professor Robert Sternberg, see the romantic impulse as merely a basic combination of “liking” and the sexual impulse.

As made explicitly clear in the example of Aristophanes, any theory about the origin and purpose of the romantic impulse is highly dependent on one’s understanding of the origin and purpose of human beings as a whole. If human beings are the product of chance, unguided natural processes and there exists no real purpose for human existence other than survival, then the theories of Freud and Girard might seem the most convincing. If each human being establishes their own sense of purpose from their own perspectives and heritage, then the discussion of universal meaning or purpose for the romantic impulse is precluded. In which case the utilitarian and simplistic perspectives of Schopenhauer or Sternberg might be all there is to say. However, if human beings are the purposeful creation of God, then the purpose of the romantic impulse must find its genesis in God’s larger purpose for human beings.

In the book of Genesis, God creates man and woman in His own image. He charges them to be fruitful and multiply, filling, subduing and ruling over the earth. This charge, commonly called the cultural mandate, and this intended state of being in the image of God, combine to establish a basic purpose for human existence – that is to reflect the true nature of God while carrying out the cultural mandate. God’s purpose for human existence cannot be reduced to merely a function, filling and ruling over the earth. The manner in which that function is conducted must display the true expression of God. The purpose also cannot be reduced to just a proper state of being, being in the image of God. That proper state of being must find its expression through the proper function of humanity, filling and ruling over the earth.

If human beings are the purposeful creation of God, everything in human experience can only be rightly understood, and therefore rightly used and enjoyed, when grounded in an understanding of the purpose of God for humanity— which is displaying His glory through fulfilling His mandate. The romantic impulse is no exception. As part of common human experience, the romantic impulse must somehow aid in both knowing and displaying God through fulfilling the cultural mandate. So, how does it do that? First and most obviously, the romantic impulse serves as one of the motivating forces towards a union that produces children when it is directed at its proper object, a person of the opposite sex. Because we live in a world marred by the effects of every person failing to live according to God’s purpose, the romantic impulse is not always directed at its proper object. Producing children is a necessary part of humanity fulfilling the cultural mandate. Our romantic impulse, as our sexual impulses, move us towards that action.

However, if it were only rooted in motivating human reproduction, the romantic impulse would seem superfluous since the sexual impulse would seem a sufficient motivator. The unique purpose for the romantic impulse can only be discovered by also considering how the relationship between a man and woman displays God’s nature or glory. When God created man, He said that it was not good for the man to be alone and the search began for a suitable helper for him in fulfilling His purpose. The search ended through God making the woman who was taken from the man, equally made in God’s image, but made in a distinct way to be a proper compliment to the man in fulfilling God’s purpose. The man and woman were designed to come together, reforming as one whole, the two becoming one flesh in the covenant relationship of marriage.

This unity of two distinct persons serves to display the true nature of God in ways that individual human beings cannot. One way is through marriage as a one flesh union of two distinct persons which reflects the triune nature of God who is also a unity of distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Though a man and a woman can produce children outside marriage, it will not function to reflect the unity of distinct persons in the Trinity without the context of a permanent one flesh union. Marriage also uniquely displays God’s love for human beings. In the complete surrender of themselves to each other and the selfless consideration of the good of the other ahead of their own, a married couple enact a dramatization of the sacrificial love of God for His people that led Him to send His own Son, Jesus Christ, to lay down His life for them. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul identifies this display of God’s loving pursuit of human beings who would become His through covenant relationship as the raison d’être for marriage. The mystery, now revealed through Jesus, is that marriage has always been about displaying Jesus Christ and his love for His bride, the church.

In light of the centrality of marriage in fulfilling God’s purpose for humanity, the romantic impulse provides something that the sexual impulse does not. The sexual impulse seeks sexual fulfillment, but the romantic impulse seeks a person. It serves a unique role in drawing together a man and a woman as distinct persons in a way that sexual desire does not. In some instances, the romantic impulse can even serve to keep the sexual impulse in check, discouraging the pursuit of sexual fulfillment in ways that would disregard the romantic object.

In God’s design, romance always serves marriage, both in drawing human beings towards marriage and as a part of marital satisfaction. For romance is not just an impulse, but also a satisfying reward. If romance ever ceases to serve marriage and becomes an end in itself, its connection to God’s purpose for humanity is severed. It is then likely to become a destructive power instead of an impetus towards meaningful existence. Romance is a useful motivator when used to serve its proper end, but it is a terrible guide. Orphaned from its higher purpose, it becomes mere sentimentality that will never display God’s nature and inspire sacrificial love instead of the pursuit of self-interest.

Twenty years after my first experience with romance, I had my last. There was another girl who began to produce similar emotional and life-altering effects on my life. This time I was caught less unaware and overcame fear to pursue a relationship with her. More importantly, I had learned the proper purpose for these powerful feelings. They were intended to motivate me towards sacrificial love in the covenant of marriage. They were not to be trusted as a guide or pursued for self-fulfillment through indulgent sentimentality or unrequited pining. They were to inspire me to love another so sacrificially, so completely, and so permanently that it would display the greatness of God’s own love for His people and to surrender my own rights so completely to her that we would seem one unified whole. I pursued that girl with those purposes as my goal and romance found its proper end in my life, a marriage that hopes to display God and His love in a world where He is hidden.

Taken from Fall 2013 issue of Logos, Love, Sex, & Christianity