Maybe, like me, you've read a blog post or newspaper article lately about how romance novels are ruining women's lives. Bloggers, psychologists, and theologians have all weighed in on how romance novels set unrealistic expections for relationships and lead to dissatisfaction, etc, etc.
Well, my goal here isn't to defend Christian romance novels or explain why I love them and read them ... and write them. But I have been thinking about those things a lot lately. And it got me thinking about when I was in college...
I began reading novels with a strong romantic story lines when I was in junior high. These were mostly historicals by authors like Gilbert Morris and Bodie and Brock Thoene. In addtion to being wildly entertaining, they modeled what a pure love can look like. And, yes, they modeled what a good man could be, who loves God and seeks to serve Him.
Fast forward seven years. I'd just finished my first year of college, which had been full of meeting new friends and wrought with plenty of heartache. One of my new friends was a guy who was a couple years older, lived off campus (that was a huge deal at the time!), and knew just the words to say to make a girl swoon. He also had what he called "a special relationship" with God, which meant he thought he could do anything he wanted without consequence. It also meant he wasn't concerned about purity or a God-centered relationship, quite the opposite of the examples I'd first read about in books and then seen in real life. Quite the opposite of what I hoped for in a relationship.
But I enjoyed his friendship, and we talked every night that summer. With just a couple weeks left before classes resumed in the fall, our conversation reached a head when he asked me, "Why aren't we dating?"
Oof! What's an immature 19-year-old kid with a grand total of one official boyfriend ever supposed to say to that? I wanted a boyfriend. And I really liked this guy. He didn't hold a candle to guys in the novels I read, so that's why I dug into depths of my mind and pulled out the best fairy-tale line I could come up with. "You're not the man of my dreams." (Feel free to laugh or groan here. Either is appropriate.)
He promptly told me that I wasn't the woman of his dreams either, and our friendship crumbled pretty fast after that.
So, was I missing some tact? Absolutely. Do I wish that I'd said something kinder? Yup. Did romance novels rescue me from a whole lot of heartache? You betcha! More than 10 years later, there's nothing I regret about not dating that guy. While I'm all for realistic expectations in a relationship, I'm also for not settling for less than God's best.
I still read them. And I'm going to keep writing them. Because I believe that good novels not only offer an escape, they also give us hope for the best that God has for each of us. Life's not easy--but good romances rarely portray it that way, anyway.
What have romance novels done for you lately?