Rebecca K. Reynolds

Honest Company for the Journey

Is Jesus Your Boyfriend?

Is it possible to feel something like "romance" for God? For some folks, probably yes. The Bible talks about the church being the bride of Christ, and key figures throughout church history have used marriage language to describe the soul's relationship with the Lord.

Like so many Christian writers have said, language is metaphorical. Nearly every idea we have of God is transposed from what we know of earth, and we never reach a point where we aren't speaking of the 4D in 3D. If the best we know of love on earth is marital intimacy, it makes sense that at least some of us would use that language/context to approach our deepest love.

However, there are three main problems with putting too much emphasis on this one possibility.

First off, there tend to be some fundamental gender differences that impact how people relate to God. For instance, a lot of men would rather approach God as a "Captain" or "Father" instead of as "lover."  It can just get weird for certain dudes to feel the need to think in light of God as "husband." We can argue about that for one reason or another, but in the end, maybe this is why the Bible has so many other metaphors for our relationship with Him?

With the rise of female writers in the church, it's natural that we would hear more about God as "husband." That's how a lot of women tend to relate to our deepest earthly loves, and we have some super gifted female voices expressing that experience right now. That's a good thing, I think. But maybe one symbolic venue isn't sufficient for all people at all times.

Secondly, not all people are fundamentally romantic at the core. Some folks are more analytical by nature. I'm not one of those people (yeah, I'm a big time sensory, poet), but I have friends who are more linear, and putting pressure on those types to "feel" God or want Him in any sort of passionate way can actually damage how they relate to Him. When we insist on romance with God, we can put a yoke on those folks they were never meant to bear.

I've known people who have almost left the church because they were worshipping among people who were so "experience" and "emotional high" focused, they just felt completely out of place. I don't blame them. I understand that some people find God through math, but if I went to a church where Calculus was the prime means of finding God, I would be so discouraged.

Thirdly, I think God is often intentional about letting us live through times when we don't feel Him much at all. C.S. Lewis calls these "troughs," and there are other writers who have spoken about the value of learning to know and obey God when our warmest emotions are simply not a part of the equation.

If we are constantly expecting (needing) a huge gushy rush with the Lord, that's going to cause major trouble when He has a different plan for a different season to grow our hearts. We cannot demand that He provide a certain soul-sensation to sustain us. We have to trust Him when He lets us learn new manifestations of His love.

Just like in a marriage, there are years when a bond itself keeps people together. Contrary to the general beliefs of our feel-good culture, sheer commitment is not a lesser love at all. It's not some sort of "law" that is a reduction of how a relationship "should" work. Will-level commitment is beautiful, because it shows that even when the world grabs hold of us and throws us for a loop, there is an acknowledgement of what "is right" that surpasses what "feels right." 

Telling God that we can't obey Him unless we feel in love with Him is like telling our spouse we can't be faithful to him today if he doesn't romance us well enough. We may have preferences, but we shouldn't give ultimatums. 

Most of the time emotions will swing back in a marriage once the dead time storms pass. Most of the time they will return with God, too, and just like that morning comes after 23 years of marriage when you are late for school because your husband is the best kisser in the entire world (ahem), there might be days when you don't know if your spouse loves you at all. You might not feel it for him, either. You might be furious with him. You might want to quit.

The pendulum has swung back of late to a more affective understanding of spirituality, which was probably a healthy thing, considering the massive focus on systematic theology in the 1990's and the tendencies of the post-modern mind. We had decades of fighters writing about God. Now we have a decade of experience-hungry lovers.

But it's wise for those of us who are poets, musicians, artists - people who are presently in our sweet spot of the cultural groove - to be sensitive to the multi-faceted nature of God. Yes, He is in the sighing Spanish moss and in the wind that tickles the insides of our arms. Yes, He is in the gold and navy clouds that roll like Beethoven over the hills. He is also in logic. He is also in commitment. He is also chasing us in years of drought when we can hardly hear Him at all.

Let's ask more about how He is working in people instead of expecting Him to do the same thing in all of us. Let's learn to trust Him within the boundaries of our innate wiring and whatever spiritual season we are walking through. Let's not assign value to different spiritual languages or metaphors based on what we simply like best. Let's stop insisting that whatever has been our experience (or desired experience) trumps whatever mystery God is working in others. It's loving to do this. It's encouraging to do this. It trusts God to be writing a symphony instead of just a folk song.