What We Stay Alive For

by John Blase

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4.8

As I read Paul’s words to the Philippians, I hear a romantic appealing to ideals. I hear him saying there are things in this life that are honest, or at least more honest than others. As there are also some pure and lovely things, even some things just. These deserve space in our life and love and work and play; they deserve our attention. I fear in our attempts to be ‘real’ we have effectively low-balled our calling to be thinkers on the things that are good and true. No, I’m not talking about strolling around in some Kinkadian fairytopia but taking stock of the actual humanity entrusted to us.

Maybe it has always been hard to be a romantic but it seems especially difficult these days. There are so many people with a craving for confrontation armed with hyperbolic crap. If you’re the least bit sentimental, most write you off as a peddler of hokum. Still, you can have my romance when you pry it from my cold dead hands. Or as the poet William Matthews wrote: Love is worth even its own disasters.

I will continue to champion romance by heaping coals of the stuff on the heads of naysayers. If you require a visual don’t see Cupid here with his itty bitty teensy weensy Hallmark arrows, but envision Don Quixote astride Rocinate willing to gallop into hell for heavenly causes.

Or if audio is your gig, hear Mr. Keating say, as his students huddle up pre-iPad commerical: We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

But its hard though, isn’t it? We’ve all been jilted so many times by lovers and family and friends and institutions, even by God (or so it sometimes feels). And we’ll be disappointed again, won’t we? And again and again. Maybe that’s why Paul penned those words, because he knew we would suffer and we would need things to think on so as not to give up hope, things to help us eat our suffering so as to make it richer, so as to keep the romance alive ’til the end and beyond.


I have not always lived well.
There have been untold seasons
of distress and grieving.
But I have survived by grace.
We could all say that though. Even
unbelievers claim the existence of
grace if only in the sound of rain.
But the promise that grace will 
lead us home leaves us skittish.
A happily ever after ending?
That sounds too much to be true.
That’s betting on the existence of
something beyond grace. That would
mean night doesn’t fall but rises.





15 Responses to “What We Stay Alive For”

  1. Gretchen February 7, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    Good thing I’m a betting woman. Isn’t that what romance is? Betting on the future of love and grace? I’m in. Thank you for this.

    • John Blase February 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      A romance by another other name is still a bet, GH. Thanks!

  2. Doug February 7, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    I have yet to decide if romance seems more difficult because of the age in which I live, or the number of years I have lived…but without it life would be one unsatisfying confrontation after another. Being “real” without romance is, in my opinion, the pose of the age. So many have established a persona that makes them fear the uncertainty romance requires. Here’s to romance-and to the adventure it brings.

    • John Blase February 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

      Doug, I hear you…it may be both of those ‘ages’…thanks for reading and commenting. Here’s to romance!

  3. Mick February 7, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Overwhelm is reaching epidemic, metastasizing. I might despair if not for the melancholy hope of more being skewered by the sacred romance you carry as your lance, my tilting friend.

    Thank you. There is no despair to this rising night thing.

    • John Blase February 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

      Mick, most days I tilt and fall out of the saddle…but I ride on.

      Thanks, man. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

  4. Bethany Bassett February 7, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    It takes a rare soul these days to admit to being a romantic. What’s more, I’d never remotely thought of Paul as one before… he who is more often associated with his sentiments on singleness and head coverings. I very much appreciate your perspective in this post. We could all use some extra sentimentality, some extra intentional focus on the beauty around us, to give warmth and depth to our “keepin’ it real.”

    • John Blase February 7, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      Bethany, yeah, we diminish Paul to a caricature, something we hate for folks to do to us…but I think he had a romantic streak running down the center of his mind. Thanks!

  5. Michael H February 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    It is so hard to be a romantic these ideas. Idealism and lofty thought has been exchanged for utter practicality and lines of demarcation, there is no room for nuance, no time for it. Not just in the world but in the church as well. I wish we had more romantics and idealists in the church. Thank you for being one and thank you for writing like one! I always have to temper what I write as I feel like it will seem like so much…hokum as you say.

    • John Blase February 7, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

      Hi, Michael. Thanks for reading my words. Its good for me to know there are others, like yourself, pledged to nuance. Write who you are. Have courage.

  6. Diana Trautwein February 7, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    When my eldest daughter got married, at the tender age of 19 to a young man who had fought death back twice before he turned 20 (only to succumb 21 years into their marriage, after a very long, very hard season), I took it upon myself to create the floral part of their day. I sat her down like she was an actual client and I said, “Could you give me three words to describe how you’d like your day to feel, please?” And she looked me right in the eye and said, “These three: sweet, sentimental (in the best sense of that word), and family.” And at that moment, I knew she would be okay despite the grief I knew was coming her way some day. Romantics are sturdy folk, all rumors to the contrary. It takes a spine to take a risk on love. Yes, it does. Thanks for your always welcome words.

    • John Blase February 7, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

      Diana, yes, we tend to have hearts that are warm but stout, and spines that are, how shall I say it, almost stubborn? Thanks for letting me know a little more about you, because I’m guessing she got her romantic strength from somewhere/someone, right??

      • Diana Trautwein February 7, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

        Well, I’d say both her parents have a fair amount of spine, especially if you’re going to define it as stubbornness. :>) I won’t argue with that, actually, because it has long been my belief that the right kind of faithfulness might be called stubbornness by some. He and I are both 1st borns and so is this daughter. She is one of my greatest heroes, truth be told.


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