A life without a heart is not worth living. Our hearts are the key to the Christian life. It is in the heart that we come to know him and learn to live in his love. And yet life has taught all of us to ignore and distrust the deepest yearnings of our heart.
These statements are basic themes of The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. They encourage us to be drawn to the heart of God. God’s search for our hearts seems like a fairy tale, but this romance is true. God is wooing us back to him. Life’s arrows teach us that we are not worthy of his love, and so we divert ourselves with smaller stories that are not fulfilling. Sensing that something is wrong, many try to fix it by tinkering with the outer life. But hearts are telling the truth—there really is something missing!
In earlier blogs, I addressed touchpoints for reaching out to those in a post-Christian culture that does not think in terms of sin and guilt. But they do think, “There’s got to be more to life than what I am experiencing.” Call this condition a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify. Lack of fulfillment is a good description. Feeling lost and alone is another angle. Discouragement is widespread, a term meaning literally a loss of heart, living life without passion.
The metaphor of a Fairy Tale is the closest one to the way in which Scriptures present the Gospel—as a Sacred Romance filled with mystery and awe. In earlier centuries, the church viewed the gospel as a Romance, a cosmic drama whose themes permeated our own stories and drew us into a redemptive wholeness. But in the Modern era, our rationalistic approach to life has stripped us of that, leaving a faith that is barely more than mere fact-telling. “Modern evangelicalism reads like an IRS 1040 form: It’s true, all the data is there, but it doesn’t take our breath away.”
In the post-Modern era, all we have left is our small stories. The only reminder we have of a story beyond our own is the evening news, an arbitrary collection of scenes and images without any bigger picture into which we fit. Life is just a sequence of images and emotions without rhyme or reason. Our heart is made to live in a larger story; having lost that, we do the best we can by developing our own smaller dramas.
All we ever really wanted was to be loved. “This is love; not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Someone has noticed, someone has taken the initiative. God is not just out there somewhere in some vague way. He desires to talk with us in the quietness of our own heart through his Spirit, who is in us.
We sense that our true home abides within us in the Spirit of Christ. Out of this abiding love, Jesus transforms us. Our identity begins to coalesce around living with a good friend for a number of years and simply finding we have become more like him.
Curtis and Eldridge summarize the Sacred Romance this way: First, our lives are not a random series of events; they tell a Story that has meaning. We aren’t in a movie we’ve arrived at twenty minutes late; we are in a Sacred Romance. We are being wooed. But we face an enemy with vile intentions. Is anyone in charge? Yes, there is someone strong and kind who notices us. Our Story is written by God, who is more than the author. He is the romantic lead in our personal drama. He created us for himself and now he is moving heaven and earth to restore us to his side
His wooing seems wild because he seeks to free our heart from the attachments and addictions we’ve chosen, thanks to the Arrows we’ve known. And we—who are we, really? We are not pond scum, nor are we the lead in the story. We are the Beloved, our hearts are the most important thing about us and our desire is wild because is made for a God who is wild.
Where do we begin to share this Sacred Romance with those looking for something more? We start with the heart of God, his passion. This is not God alone but in relationships, intimacy beyond our wildest imagination. We long for intimacy because we are made in the image of perfect intimacy, beginning with the Trinity.
Once upon a time, there were God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They (he) provide the kind of home we’ve been looking for all our life. We know that God is a lover at heart, from all eternity.
What is your reaction to seeing your relationship with God as a Sacred Romance, like a fairy tale but one that is biblical and true? Do you agree that a life without heart is not worth living?
Marty Swiatkowski says
When I was nine years old, my preferred movies were those involving stop-motion animated dinosaurs, alien beings or monsters, and slapstick comedies. My family then took in BEN-HUR, and I proclaimed it as my favorite movie. I wheedled my older sister and others to accompany me back to see it three more times in its “first run” at the Leow’s Ohio Theater in Cleveland. Later I learned that Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was a blockbuster best-selling novel, written in 1880, long before the 1959 film version of the story. It was considered “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century.”
As time went on, movies piled up: WEST SIDE STORY was terrific, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was awesome, THE GRADUATE was poignant, DAS BOOT was gripping, great films of the 1930s and 1940s became more accessible. But I always said BEN-HUR was my all-time favorite. Some friends would look at me with a we-hear-you-we-don’t-get-it-but-we-respect-you look.
Like the Bible itself, the fictional story of Judah Ben-Hur’s coming to Christ was able to speak to me at age nine and give me additional insight each time I saw it again. Today, Dave’s blog reminds me of the scene that follows the sea battle between the Romans and the Carthaginians. Galley slave Judah and his benefactor, Roman fleet commander Quintus Arrius, have been fished out of the water after believing that the battle had been lost. Quintus’ subordinates inform him that in fact the battle was decisively won. He turns to Judah and says, “ In His eagerness to save you, your God has also saved the Roman fleet.”
Since retiring ten years ago, I have spent time calling and visiting those in the midst of health or other emergencies, on behalf of our church’s care ministry. People in these situations find ways to condense their life stories, and they are willing, foxhole style, to tell of their faith journey. I am impressed over and over with the complexity of God’s Plan in which so many elements work in concert to bring a Christian to a firm, final faith.
It is clear to me that the Sacred Romance of today’s blog is what I refer to as God’s Plan. It is a commingling of six+ billion (currently) personal life-plans, each with individual and shared conflicts, plots and subplots, crises, setbacks, seeming coincidences, dead ends, epiphanies and so many more devices, no doubt some of which human authors have yet to discover. I am sure each of our life-plans has many possibilities for the happiest of endings, even if things look bleak now, in some cases because things look bleak now. The most interesting romances have their low points; the fleet may be saved for your benefit. In a year like 2020, a miniature Year of Reckoning if you will, or any other year, that is comforting.
David Luecke says
Hi, Marty. Man, you have a good mind for details. I know all those movies. I have seen Ben-Hur twice, but I did not get the broader significance of the galley slave and the commander being pulled out of water and then finding they won the battle. I like your point that God’s plan is worked out in millions of lives of believers. Thanks for joining me in trying to help believers share their version God’s plan as an encouragement to others.
Bill Oehlschlager says
Dave, this is a wonderful article and I think is your best one yet! I plan to use it in our January newsletter.
David Luecke says
Thanks, Bill I am glad this resonated with you. God’s love is a wonderful story, and it’s true.