Observations of The Sacred Romance – Drawing Closer to the Heart of God (by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge) among a few friends. You don't even have to be reading the book to enjoy these comments! We just hope you are being blessed and you'll let us know what you are thinking, too…
Let me introduce you to Heather: Heather and her cutie-patootie husband, Eric have been happily married for over 13 years now and have produced two beautiful little girls. The whole family is in love with Germany, their beautiful German Shepherd "baby girl."
Heather calls herself goofy, emotional, devoted and adventurous and fluent in "mom-ease," though those of us who know her also know she is an extraodinary communicator with an amazing ability to love and exhort! She is truly gifted in leadership.
If she's traveling, Heather's desire is "pamper me, baby," but she is a strong woman who believes the best part of being a mommy is carrying a child. A Dance Revolution Champion, Heather is working to be the best in Guitar Hero. When asked when she last cried she replied, "Oh, for crying out loud – I probably cried today at some point. I lose track." We love that about her, too!
Chapter Six: God the Ageless Romancer & Chapter Seven: The Beloved
From Heather: From this chapter I believe I am beginning to see God in a new way. I know that God is the Lover of my heart, but I can’t say I’ve ever really “gotten it”. It is difficult for me to understand Him as pursuing me, and loving me, that I am his bride. I have to say (this is really hard to admit to), but I’ve been very clumsy with this terminology my entire Christian walk, that of the church being his bride. I really believe it goes back to my relationship with my father. I won’t bore you with details, but my biological father knew of me and refused to have anything to do with me. My “dad”, who came into my life at 3-ish was distant and unattached. When called to make that connection between my relationship with my dad and my relationship with my God, there just isn’t one, at least not one that’s positive. So, there is some junk there that needs to be healed to be sure.
I loved how this chapter referred to the intimacy of the Trinity as, “heroic intimacy”. That is a beautiful description. “The story that is the Sacred Romance begins not with God alone, the Author at his desk, but God in relationship, intimacy beyond our wildest imagination, heroic intimacy. The trinity is at the center of the universe; perfect relationship is the heart of all reality.” I love that part! “..Perfect relationship is the heart of all reality.” Read on and it says this: “We long for intimacy because we are made in the image of perfect intimacy. “
If the chapter ended right there, it would have been more than enough for me to chew on. It just saddens me as to how I’ve gotten so far from perfect relationship and perfect intimacy. I feel like it’s almost out of reach. Maybe it is this side of heaven, but I know our journey doesn’t begin at the pearly gates, so I will ask Him to help me understand this mysterious relationship with the lover of my soul.
There is mention of whether or not God is trustworthy, and on page 70, this question is posed: “How can I trust a lover who is so wild?” I think that’s a fair question! I do want to trust Him. I really do, and though intimacy is an issue for me, I know I can trust him with my heart once I am able to fully hand it over to him. I began this chapter telling myself that I trusted God with my heart, but I believe I’ve been lying to myself. I think I want to, but I don’t think I have fully given Him all of my heart yet. I think I’ve been holding back a portion of it from him. I can say that when faced with many of the uncertainties of life (thus far) I can typically walk in peace and say that I trust Him and His will for the situation. So if that’s the case, why haven’t I handed over all of my heart?
Here’s another morsel to chew on, from age 73: “We long for intimacy because we are made in the image of perfect intimacy.” Oh, how calloused my heart must be! I know it’s true! Yet within I can feel the hole in my heart. The intimacy hasn’t been given permission to come in yet. God, pull out of me the poisonous roots within so that you can fill it up!
The act of creation is part of His romancing us, “With a world that is beautiful and funny and full of adventure.” The authors instruct us, “Don’t rush ahead to the Fall. Stay here a moment and feel God’s happiness with it all.” This is what really changed my perspective. In light of creation, He has been my “Creator” and creation has been awesome, and awe-inspiring. Now I see the whole of creation as a living love letter to all of us, to me. That’s reaches me. That is a healing balm working its way in.
On Chapter 7 It felt to me like this chapter was breathing life into me. We long to be known, to be valuable, to be pursued. Yes, yes yes. But here is my issue: I worked very hard earlier on in life to be important to some of the core people and was left high and dry. John Eldridge relives an embarrassing situation he had in the 2nd grade, where he really needed his parents to come to his rescue, and they weren’t home: “In a moment of real need, when I so desperately wanted someone to be there for me, I was alone. Something clicked within me; an image settled in that place, which captured the message that I had better never blow it again because there wouldn’t be anyone to pick me up when I fell.” Been there, brother. I understood emotional self sufficiency early on as a kid and the rest of my “independence” followed in my early teens. It’s true, that when you are in that moment of need and really crying for help, and you reach out only to find nothing to hang on to, you find a sort of coping mechanism that rises up within you to harden that part of your heart that was pierced. I want intimacy, but there is a history of intimacy broken.
This chapter also talks about how we crave the applause of the Father. So true, but I think we (I) have gotten this confused with the stuff I do instead of the relationship with him. I am a do-er, though I don’t normally admit that… However it’s very refreshing to hear the author’s say that, “Identity is not something that falls on us out of the sky. For better or for worse, identity is bestowed.” I could be running around “doing” all kinds of stuff, but it has nothing to do with my identity! I guess I knew that, but it’s sinking in now. It’s freeing. I just want to rest in my own skin, you know what I mean?
I think this is my favorite chapter so far, and all of them have been great. Hearing of how we were “stolen from our true love and that He [God], launched the greatest campaign in the history of the world to get us back.” This is the fairy tale! “God created us for intimacy with him. When we turned our back on him he promised to come for us. He sent personal messengers; He used beauty and affliction to recapture our hearts. After all else failed, he conceived the most daring of plans. Under the cover of night he stole into the enemy’s camp incognito, as the Ancient of Days disguised as a newborn.”
That is such a beautiful way of putting it! This chapter sets me up for running to Him with total abandon. It’s the progression of a love story that has the drama, the passion the conflict (our rebellion) and His unchanging love for us. We are damaged goods, yes. But thankfully that’s just not the end of the story! At one point the authors point out that we are “glorious ruins." It’s beautiful imagery of the essence of us here on earth. This also was quite insightful: “The fact that we don’t see our own glory is part of the tragedy of the fall; a sort of spiritual amnesia has taken all of us.” Pair that with this thought: “As hard as it may be for us to see our sin, it is far harder still for us to remember our glory. The pain of the memory of our former glory is so excruciating, we would rather stay in the pigsty than return to our true home.” Ouch-well said. I don’t want to stay in my pigsty. I want to find even a hint of the qualities that God sees in me. I am so humbled to know of his pursuit of me, in the way this book has shared it.
This is a wonderful note to end on: “If God is the pursuer, the Ageless Romancer, the Lover, then there has to be a beloved, one who is the pursued. This is our role in the story.” I love it!
Input from Candi: These chapters are doing so much in helping me to grasp a new aspect of God’s character. I’ve done some really in-depth studies of the Old Testament and learned so much about the character of God, but this book has brought a whole other element of God’s love into the picture. It’s so exciting!
Chapter 6 starts with “So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about- He is looking for us.” (Simon Tugwell) I have to admit that I often forget this and I have lost heart. I have been the “practical agnostic” thinking “perhaps God will come through, perhaps He won’t, so I’ll be hanged if I’ll live as though he had to come through. I’ll hedge my bets and if he does show up, so much the better.” Why would I want to devote my life and serve a God that occasionally comes through? Well, I know now that this book is clearly opening my eyes to where I have been misled in the past and clarifying that God is the hero of my story!
This chapter focuses on The Larger Story: God’s Eternal Heart, His Heart Betrayed, and His Heart on Trial. It is vital in the Christian walk to really understand “God’s Eternal Heart.” It’s so easy to get caught up in our important mortal stories and forget that God’s heart was for us even before creation. Before creation God is “in relationship, intimacy beyond our wildest imagination, heroic intimacy. The Trinity is at the center of the universe; perfect relationship is the heart of all reality.” God created us to share His love with us, but “God does not need the Creation in order to have something to love because within Himself love happens.” God Is Love!
I don’t think I ever really understood the true purpose of the Trinity. Up until now, I knew how they related to each other, ie. God the Father, Jesus the Son, Holy Spirit as God’s spirit living in us. However, I never comprehended that they represented perfect intimacy. I never could have imagined that “we were created out of the laughter of the Trinity!” Pg. 74. What an awesome thought!
The chapter goes on to explain the “cosmic divorce, a betrayal in the heart of the universe. Satan…turned on his Maker.” Pg. 73. “Satan mounted his rebellion through the power of one idea: God doesn’t have a good heart.” Pg. 76. God proves to us, though, that His heart is for us even when he offers us freedom and we reject Him. “Here, at the lowest point in our relationship, God announces his intention never to abandon us but to seek us out and win us back.” At this point He offers us Grace.
When studying the Old Testament it’s so easy to ask, “Why didn’t the Israelites get it?” Now I’m laughing because I’m asking, “Why didn’t I get it?” The authors have us read the passages from the prophets on pg. 79 as if we were eavesdropping on a lovers’ quarrel and I FINALLY understand God’s heart!
These chapters have made my need for perfect intimacy come alive again. It is achievable…it is out there! And it’s inviting me up into something larger…it’s looking for ME!
I realize I was taught to try to be humble. The need for attention and to be desired isn’t humble enough. I’ve been living with an inner struggle of not wanting to draw attention to myself, but knowing there’s a need to be recognized, to impact others. I realize, though, that a BIG weight is being lifted off because “we were made for glory, for the attention that the Trinity gives to each other, and we can’t live without it.” Pg. 92. “The Trinity is a society whose members draw their identities from the others.” Pg. 87. If it’s true that “we are created as a reflection of the Trinity”, then I am now on a mission to know how the Trinity truly defines me. I also know that as I edge closer to seeing this reflection, I will fully see who God is calling me to be without reservation! I am His Beloved!
The youngster, Amy Jo, chimes in: We are created for intimacy and we are created for Romance! Like you Heather, I was struck by that assertion on p. 73, “We long for intimacy because we are made in the image of perfect intimacy.” That intimacy is the unfathomable bond between the members of the Trinity. As Candi said, “God IS love!” I was enthralled by the authors’ synopsis of the events before Genesis. I had never before considered God’s feelings about pre-Creation events—how it must have affected His heart to have Lucifer call into question His very goodness, wage war in heaven, and ultimately take off with a third of all His angels! This chapter provides a fantastic picture of the larger story of all of history.
Have you ever wondered why we were created? Of course you have. Yet, if God is love and desires this kind of intimacy, does that not make Him somehow needy? No. And I really appreciate how the authors reaffirmed His autonomy by quoting Buechner, “God does not need the Creation in order to have something to love because within Himself love happens.” (p.73) Cool, huh? I bet you have also wondered why God bothered to create mankind, fully knowing that they would rebel and revolt? Why would He make creatures who could hurt Him so? Free-will seems like an awfully risky venture, and if I were creating my own little world, I think I’d avoid handing THAT out! But here is the answer our authors give: “In order for a true romance to occur, we had to be free to reject him… The reason He didn’t make puppets is because He wanted lovers.” (pp. 77-78) Now that makes sense… Chosen, freely-given, sacrificial love means SO much more than forced or coerced love. I get it now!
On CH 7: The Beloved, All good stories are successful because they contain or mimic the story of the gospel. They contain similar elements: a hero, a villain, a love interest, a betrayal, redemption… it’s true. And as our authors point out on p.92, “The reason we enjoy fairy tales—more than enjoy them—the reason we identify with them in some deep part of us is because they rest on two great truths: The hero really has a heart of gold and the beloved really possesses a hidden beauty. In the chapter , I hope you got a glimpse of God’s good heart. But what about the second great truth—could we possess hidden greatness? It seems too good to be true.”
That phrase, “the Beloved,” is kind of distracting for me because my name (Amy) means beloved. It’s weird because while I am aware of that connection, I don’t always think of myself that way—as “the Beloved.” I don’t walk around insisting to be treated as someone dearly loved, yet I insist that people call me by my name… interesting. I also grew up with the concept of the Church being the “Bride of Christ.” So that one wasn’t a shocker to me either. But I have baggage attached to that phrase. My problem is this: to be called “Bride of Christ” or “Beloved” implies some intrinsic value: something I know I have but don’t usually accept because I am always aware of my imperfections. Surely the Beloved Bride is cleaner than I am, more worthy, more deserving. Our authors refute this thinking, saying, “We don’t have to get God to love us by doing something right—even loving Him… There is nothing we need to do to keep it up, because His love for us is not based on what we’ve done, but who we are: His beloved.” (p.98) YAY!
I have to admit I am often not particularly fond of Christ’s Bride. She can be a bride-zilla, if you know what I mean! Christians can be some of the most unforgiving, petty, closed-minded, cruel, back-biting people you’ll ever meet. And this is sad. This is the Bride’s rebellion. “The fact that we don’t see our own glory is part of the tragedy of the Fall; a sort of spiritual amnesia has taken all of us…we have forgotten our part.” (p.94) May I come to love the Bride of Christ (myself included) as He does… see her as He sees her: lovable, redeemable, and forgivable.
Curtis and Eldredge quoted C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory on page 93: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” We ARE immortal. Every single soul on this earth is eternal. The choice is ours as to how we spend it: with or without our “Ageless Romancer.”
And finally, it's me, Jeanie: "Once upon a time were Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the kind of home we've been looking for all our life" (page 74). Sometimes it happens, it may be fleeting, but occasionally you get to experience it: rich moments of holy laughter with family, a good meal shared in love while kind memories flow and encouraging words of appreciation are being expressed. And when it happens, you know you are on holy ground. You know you are experiencing something of the divine. You understand the table of fellowship in heaven.
I had one such evening last night. It was the first time we had gathered the whole family from all our travels to celebrate Mother's Day and the birthdays of my two eldest daughters, Tara and Stephanie. And time and space and life being what it is, you always hope everyone can come in and shed the stress and distractions and enjoy the company, but we are no different than other families. It does not always happen that way. But last night I could sense the joy of the Trinity, the sense of "we are complete," and "we are one." I breathe it in with deep appreciation, even now.
And because I am the matriarch of this family, because I actually birthed these incredible human beings, the joy-seed of my love with Dave, I can understand better the heart of God toward us. Because, omygoodness, my heart toward my children and their children is so full of love and goodness and purity and mercy. I haven't done it all right or even very well (which God of course, has), but whether they have yet realized it or not: my kids can trust my heart towards them. I will always love them. I will always think the best of them. I will always be their biggest fan. They should never have to fear me or rejection from me. So why do I with my Romancer?
Page 82: "Once upon a time we lived in a garden; we lived in the place for which we were made. There were no Arrows, only beauty. Our relationships weren't tainted with fear, guardedness, manipulation, quid pro quo. Our work was rewarding, we received more than we gave…We were made for the garden, but now there is affliction also, and that is because we live East of Eden. The Arrows seem the truest part of life, but they are not." And in the spring when I put my hands into the soil and help the chubby fingers of grandsons push seed into the ground, it is almost like I can hear God calling me like He once called Adam, "Jeanie, Jeanie, where are you?" He knows where I am, but He asks so that I'll take stock at where I have gone, to make sure I know where I am…
Isn't the great paradox that "we long to be known and we fear it like nothing else"? We believe things about ourselves that aren't true (Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will really hurt me) and we run from the Pursuer thinking He believes those things are true, too. Yet, His own Word calls us: "…the Holy…the Redeemed…the Sought-after…"
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us…" (1 John 4.10). I am my Beloved's and He is mine. Here I am, Lord…
Thank-you again, Heather and Candi and Amy Jo for your insightful and transparent sharing…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: Everything I've always really wanted comes from God. Everything. Answer His call.