Many times when people refer to someone as a ‘Helpless Romantic’ they implying the person cannot help but to be in love, or think romantic thoughts. Although it may seem romance in the sense of love has becoming less important in the ‘hook up’ culture we live in, I would attest that many of Americans are helplessly romantic. What I mean by this is that we romanticize or idealize everything in our culture. We live in a consumeristic society because of the romantic ideals we place on possessions. We believe if we just had the latest Apple product our lives would be changed for the better. We believe we will be more productive, we will be able to know more, and entertain more. We believe if we could do all of that we would have more friends, better careers, and more time to do the things we love. Yet when we buy the product nothing changes, and in a few months Apple releases another idealized product promising the same thing leaving us believing what we currently have is no longer good enough, so we trash the old and buy the new. Now I am not knocking Apple, their designs and ads are genius and they play on this very truth that we desire the romantic life.
The effect romanticism has on our culture is profound. It effects everything from what we buy to what we wear to what professions we go into, to how we view religion, how we enter relationships, how we engage in sex, and how we raise our families. I could write pages on how this world view has effected each of these examples. I will begin with touching only on a few. Lately the idealization of sexual relationships has increased to an absurd level. With the increase of pornography, Victoria Secret models, and television sitcoms we are told not only when sex should happen, but with who sex should happen with, and even how the act of sex should be done. Watch any ad, any show, any movie and you will see sex communicated as something done in haste with a close friend or new aquaintace, in which the female is always dressed provotively. The problem with this is sex was never meant to be done casually.Women were never meant to be physically exploited, but here we have created a culture where the it is believed by both men and women that sex should always be an adventure, that women should always be sexy, and that it is better to have sex with someone than to have to invest in a relationship with someone. We end up treating people the same way we treat our Apple products. When we find a new version we trash the old and buy the new. The cycle is never ending. People scratch their heads when we talk about the divorce rates in America, and then we are even more appalled at the rate of single mothers, yet instead of tackling the heart of the issue to lowers these rates we add to the idealization of sex by prescribing better ‘safe sex’ methods, because what is more ideal than sex without consequences. But what we really need to prescribe is that sex does have consequences, always, no matter how idealized or safe it is. Sex was designed to celebrate relationship, one where pain hurt suffering happiness saddens joy anxiety fears dreams can be safe. It is a place where real life can be expressed, ideal sex is not an escape, its an emersion into all the realties of life, including the ups and downs.
Now that was just one example of how the world’s obsession with romanticism distorts reality, but the world is not alone in the helplessness of romance. The church has become a place where romanticism can thrive at its fullest. Take for example the idea that once you are save all of your problems will go away and that God will bless you with every Earthly blessing you could ever desire. Ok for many right minded Christians we see the truth behind the lie of everything being ok once you are in right relationship with the lord. But what does your heart want to tell you to believe? I think many of us wish the best for ourselves since we claim to be followers of Christ. We think God will keep us more safe than the non-christian down the road and then we ask why God when something terrible happens to us, yet we never ask why God when something terrible happens to the non-believer down the road. Or lets explore this idea, I know many people who struggle to pray and read their bible on a consistent basis because of the romanticized idea that when we pray and do our devotional then God must blow us away with some form of comfort or message or revelation. I am not diminishing the fact that God can do this, nor am I questioning the reverence found in the presence of the Lord, I am just stating that we have romanticized the idea of prayer and devos so much that people do not even try to participate in them because their experience does not match their expectations. We do the same thing with worship. We idealize worship to standing and singing where we feel good about the promises of God. But what happens when it is difficult to worship, when you do not feel well? Is it still worship if your idea of worship is not being met? Is it worship when they are being met? I think worship is relying on God and trusting him always no matter what we feel in all circumstances. We are able to worship God with our whole being, this includes our thoughts, our conversations, our relationships. Wow we can worship God with everything we idealize, but when we idealize something are we telling God that what he has provided us is not good enough? Isn’t it interesting ideal sounds a lot like idol? When we take what is suppose to be God’s and twist it for our own guilty pleasure we no longer worship God but ourselves.
Life was originally designed Good! But life will never be Good according to God’s standards until he returns. It sounds grim for the present, but I believe this is where faith comes in. Faith is living in the tension of life, it is living in honest relationships where people invest in one another, it is a place where it cost you something to get to know someone and it cost them something to get to know you. And it is enduring every aspect in life with one another while growing in the Love of the Lord. Yet this too may be a romantic ideal of Christian fellowship since the fallen human condition always gets in the way, but this is were the idea of Grace must enter in. It is by the Grace of Christ we are saved, none of us are good enough to make it on our own so we should not expect the ideal Christian community to exist, but what we can expect is for the Grace of Christ to penetrate our lives in such a way that we begin to impact the world around us with the same grace. May we become transformed from helpless romantics to willful givers of Grace.