One of my favorite paintings is Lover, Beloved by Lucas Moneypenny (you can view it here). The work portrays a man and a woman lying in a field, one atop of the other, both (presumably) nude. You can’t see anything “inappropriate” in the picture, yet the artist is able to convey the beauty of sexuality as God designed it.
Marital love is sacred. From the first couple, Adam and Eve, the romantic relationship between a man and a woman has been uniquely beautiful, like nothing else on Earth. Marriage and the creation of a family are, at their foundations, attempts between two humans to co-create the most beautiful piece of artwork they can. We know of no higher creativity than that which binds humans together in marriage and creates children out of the sacred relationship.
I strongly believe it is this sanctity that causes love stories to enthrall us. In my first draft of this blog post (before I rewrote it), I spent most of my time dissecting why it is that humans are enthralled by love stories. I wanted to talk about the ways that the adoration for romance traces back to our deep need for relational intimacy and how that need can only be satisfied in God.
While all of that is true and helpful to discuss, I think at some points it can be unnecessary. This is because our fascination with love stories tends to be self-authenticating. Why do we find it so enjoyable to listen to how our married friends met one another and began their relationship? Because, well, we just instinctively know and feel that something larger than life is occurring when two people meet one another and intertwine their lives in marriage.
And it is larger than life. It is heavenly, in the deepest sense of the word. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that the relationship between a man and wife is meant to be an image of the eternal relationship between Christ and the Church. That truth is stunning.
Love stories in movies and books, whether it’s in Beauty and the Beast or a funny chick-flick, are tapping into this heavenly reality. Our fascination with love stories comes from our fascination with love. And our fascination with love comes from the desire planted irremovably deep within us, a desire that yearns for someone who will love us as we are.
We find this love in Christ. Every wedding, in reality and in story, is a tiny shadow of the wedding feast of the Lamb, where Christ and the Church rejoice in being married to one another. The next time you read or watch a love story, remember that the emotion you feel as you behold the love story is grounded in the beauty of the eternal love story: That of Christ relentlessly pursuing the fallen Church, to redeem her and to present to Himself a bride like none other, washed white in His blood.