As the sun melts into the horizon, Anne gazes into Gilbert's eyes and says, "I don't want diamond sunbursts, or marble halls. I just want you."
My sister and I always cheer at this point—the last line of the movie, Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel. Anne's profession of love to Gilbert finally settles years of heart wrenching turbulence during which Gilbert's advances are either ignored or outright rejected. My sister and I never tire of the film series, each time bemoaning Anne's refusals of Gilbert (knowing full well she will accept him in the end), rooting for the determined suitor, and basically enjoying the whole tortuous, tumultuous process.
After watching the movies as a young girl, I daydreamed about having my own romance full of tender looks and pulse-racing emotion. I wondered who my "Gil" would be and how our breathtaking love story would unfold. But my "romantic" experience turned out different from what I envisioned. In fact, it didn't feel romantic at all.
It began in May of 2000. I'd just graduated from college in New York and joined my sister in Longview, Texas, for the summer. We played a lot of sand volleyball and one balmy night, during a lull in the game, two guys walked out of the gymnasium toward the court. When I turned to look, I gazed into a pair of heartrending blue eyes and suddenly heaven opened, a shaft of light beamed down, and background music swelled to a crescendo.
Daniel and I began a friendship as we shared many similar interests. After about a month I was ready to move to the dating stage, with visions of matrimony waltzing into the future. Daniel, however, wasn't so ready. In fact when he asked to "talk" after the first five months, I struggled to fight back tears when he stated his desire to keep our relationship strictly platonic.
Because we ran in the same circles, we continued to see each other often. And the more time I spent near Daniel, the more my heart was drawn to him. I'd never met anyone like him, and knew, without a doubt, that he was the man I wanted to marry. I sensed interest from him as well, both from what he said and from what his body language implied.
During the Christmas break, Daniel called me from California and we talked for more than an hour. So when he returned to Texas for the spring semester and asked if we could "talk," my heart leapt. This was it!
Or not. Even now I can remember the bitter taste in my mouth and the loud ticking of my wall clock after Daniel finished his lengthy monologue with, "And I don't ever see us being anything more than friends." He left shortly afterward. I cried myself to sleep.
Missing God's Romance
Fast forward a year and Daniel was down on one knee, professing undying love and asking if I would spend the rest of my life with him. So, yes, it all worked out, but not without considerable pain and uncertainty. Prior to our wedding, a young, single friend asked for a detailed account of our relationship, and after I told her the story, she wistfully sighed, "How romantic!"
I was stunned. Did she not hear the heartache within my tale? Did she not understand how painful love could be, even when it came to a good end?
I realized there's a difference between observing a so-called romance and actually living one. Romances don't always turn out the way we envision them.
We can trick ourselves into believing that a romance will always "feel" romantic (basically all those bubbly, yummy emotions), or that it will meet certain conscious or unconscious expectations. Even the romance-seeking Anne in Anne of Green Gables, became confused and required a "romance adjustment" from her guardian, Marilla.
When Marilla clued Anne into the fact that Gilbert loved her, Anne said, "Marilla, he's hardly my idea of a romantic suitor."
In response Marilla said, "Anne, you have tricked something out of that imagination of yours that you call romance. Have you forgotten how he gave up the Avonlea school for you so that you could stay here with me? He picked you up every day in his carriage so that you could study your courses together. Don't toss it away for some ridiculous ideal that doesn't exist."
The sacrifices that Gilbert made out of his love for Anne didn't fit into Anne's concept of "romance." She envisioned a somewhat mysterious, wealthy, and heroic suitor who would win her heart with poetry. But Gilbert's everyday kindnesses struck Anne as too ordinary to be romantic.
In the daily stuff of life, Anne missed Gilbert's repeated professions of love.
I think about how I do that with God, about how I forget that I live within a great romance where God is daily professing his love to me and to all people. Because a sunrise, or a flower, or the chirp of a bird seems so ordinary, I miss the romance of it all. And yet God, through everyday kindnesses is wooing us to him. He is saying, over and over again, "I love you! I love you! I love you!" Even those piles of laundry and stacks of dishes—are they not evidence of a passionate suitor providing for his love?
It is so easy to miss the romance, to trick ourselves into believing that life is a drudgery filled with endless duties. Or else we miss the romance because it doesn't make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
God's romance is not without pain and heartache. But isn't that part of any great romance? Isn't the final uniting of two lovers that much sweeter when they've persevered through misunderstandings and trials? Do we not cheer all the louder because of the suffering they have endured?
I didn't know if Daniel and I would end up together. And our journey to eventual matrimony was pretty rocky at times. But now that we're married, I can look back and say it was worth all the heartache for the present joy we share.
A greater joy, beyond any we can imagine, awaits those who love and are loved by God. And unlike earthly romances, we know how God's romance with us will end! We know we will look back someday and say it was worth all the struggle and heartache. We know we will attend the wedding feast as his beautiful bride, finally living within his presence.
God, who is love, is the definitive romantic. He professes his love to us through countless "ordinary" ways. But if we let ourselves get "tricked out of romance" we will miss them! We must not allow our to-do lists to crowd out the awareness that we live within the greatest tale of love ever told.
How great? Consider that God chooses to love us every day, and not only does he choose to love us every day (even when we're unlovable), but he made the ultimate sacrifice by giving his own life to rescue his future bride.
I don't know about you, but that's enough to sweep me off my feet. Forever.
Dana Ryan is a freelance writer who lives in Arizona.
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.