I must admit that I enjoy Hallmark movies. I say that with some hesitation because I’m actually really picky about my movie choices–to the point of being annoying. There is something that pulls on me though when I watch those cheesy, predictable romance movies. I’ve tried to ignore that part of me. I try instead to listen to the other part that knows better, that understands that what is being portrayed is not what real romance looks like. But I can’t help it. This desire for romance resonates deeply within me, and I want to understand why instead of being embarrassed by it.
I’ve come to wonder why women are naturally drawn to romance. Even though our culture has changed so dramatically in regards to sex and relationships, women are overwhelmingly the consumers of romance movies and novels. While this does not apply to every woman, it is prevalent enough to warrant some investigation.
The Desire for Romance
Many might argue that it is simply a matter of conditioning and that women are raised to think that their lives are only meaningful if a man is in it. I was not raised this way though. I was raised by my single father who taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be; who had philosophical discussions with me all throughout my growing up years, and who allowed me to travel around the world even though I was only a teenager. And, yet, I still wanted romance, even craved it.
This continues to be the case for many, even in our time of casual sex and no strings-attached encounters. In fact, in a recent article in the New York Times called “For Best Hookup Results, Use Your Words, O.K.?” a recent college graduate explores her own misgivings. She talks about how after a no-strings attached hookup, she was thrown off guard by her lover’s sweet words, telling her she was the “girl of his dreams.” He says all this, acting like he is interested and then never contacts her again. She is frustrated that she was so easily duped and considers why she was. She reveals that, even though she wasn’t seeking it, she still desired love.
…I find myself thinking it will all get better when I find romance. When I have a man who wants me despite how fallible, loud or political I can be. Someone who, with a kiss, can snap me out of my self-pitying reverie. I think about how long I’ve been ready to find the beauty in another human being, to caress the scars of someone as flawed as me and to feel that person reciprocate.
Why do we have this desire that is so strong that all the cultural conditioning in the world can’t seem to stop it? Perhaps we were created to crave and value relationship. Maybe it is something we should celebrate instead of despise.
Women Under Attack
Right now, when the very idea of what it even means to be a woman is under attack, this very fundamental, feminine trait should be explored, instead of dismissed. Have you ever wondered why those things that are traditionally feminine are always considered inferior?
Going back to the very beginning we see the roots of this anti-female litany—Satan Himself. It is easy to cast the white male as the main perpetrator (though history can attest that he is certainly not the only or most pervasive abuser). Instead, we must consider the spiritual dimension of the age-old problem.
In the garden, Satan targets Eve. He makes her doubt her place and God’s goodness. He deceives her with statements meant to pit her against her God. Adam, in turn, says nothing, yet seems to wait to see what happens. This story seems to paint the woman in a negative light and in some ways it does. But have you ever wondered—why did Satan go after her?
The Imago Dei
I believe it is because the female persona reflects a very unique and specific attribute of God. When God is moved to creation He clearly states in Genesis 1:27 (NIV), “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
That means there are attributes in both males and females which encapsulate God’s very identity. And the female attribute must be so important that Satan saw fit to attack it again and again—in the garden and every day since. We, as women, offer a part of God that this world can never see unless we are here. Our suffering does not remove our dignity; it highlights the special purpose for which we were created. And while this longing for love makes us vulnerable, it alone can show the world the tender heart of God, who has made emptied Himself for us (Philippians 2:7).
After the fall, God’s promise of redemption even comes through Eve in a prophecy that can only be fulfilled by a woman. And if we look at Mary, perhaps we see a bit of that divine character that Satan despises: her courage, her loyalty, her single-mindedness-carrying the biggest secret in history, as she doggedly walks forward to the end. She’s the most vulnerable woman in history but also the most hopeful.
And, let’s not forget that deep longing for relationship in every woman which reflects God’s own longing for relationship. Perhaps our longing for romance is misguided in that it focuses its hope upon another fallible person. However, the problem is not in the longing. There is nothing weak or foolish about relationship. In fact, it is the bedrock upon which life must be built. It is also the loose thread being pulled in our culture that is causing it all to unravel. The desire to love and be loved, to know and be known, is a reflection of God’s own heart.
“Thus says the Lord, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9: 23-24 ESV bold and italics mine).
God emphatically states that this is His heart’s desire–to be understood and known.
My Feminine Gift
Therefore I will reject the anti-female rhetoric which states that to desire relationship is silly. I will instead embrace and relish this longing that is at the root of the Gospel which is in itself an invitation to relationship. I will work hard, though, to not allow myself to be distracted by the offerings of human romantic love, however delightful, as a means of satisfying this longing. Instead, I will direct my wayward heart towards the One who truly understands this need, and who meets and sanctifies it. I will not be embarrassed by this any longer for I know that this is part of my feminine gift to the world–the gift of love. After all, the Jesus Storybook explains it perfectly:
The Bible is most of all a Story…it’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!