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.