Nicholas Sparks, the author of a large number of romance novels, divorced his wife of twenty-five years earlier this year according to a number of sources online. The articles I read noted that he and his wife had come to this decision after much consideration, but separation was still the final verdict.
Divorce is not a laughing matter. I don’t ever want to come across as being hurtful or rude in my writing. So, in this post, I don’t want to deal so much with Sparks himself as with the reactions of his fan base. One of the articles I read simply gave a list of reactions to this news from social media. There, fans questioned the reality of love, the hope of ever finding that perfect match, and the validity of Sparks’ previous stories. They began to ask if love had died now that the world’s most romantic mind was found to have separated from his love.
Isn’t it strange how the very prospect of love can be called into question because of a situation like this? Of course, I have to believe that some of the reactions were a bit sarcastic. I doubt anyone is actually giving up on love because of this divorce. But such things make you wonder about our culture’s understanding of these topics.
Based on the reactions I read, people appear to have equated romance with love. The assumption seems to be that romance fuels the fire of love, that wit and charm make for never ending happiness with another person. But is this really the case? Is a successful relationship’s foundation really romance? People seem to be doubting that premise now, and for good reason. As they wonder whether love has died along with Nicholas Sparks’ marriage, they’re beginning to be disillusioned from a common misunderstanding.
The truth is that perfect love has already died. Then he came back to life. John records Jesus as saying these words:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Paul affirms this truth when he writes,
… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The ultimate picture of love is the death of the Son of God in place of sinners. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). And this truth seriously impacts our understanding of love between a man and a woman. As Paul writes,
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
Love is sacrificial and faithful, selfless and pure.
Paul describes love itself in 1 Corinthians 13, pointing out that,
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
At the root, love is from God (see 1 John). He’s the author and the protagonist in the grand love story. He is the foundation of all true love. Any image of love seen in romance is only a shadow of God’s love. All of this leads me to believe that we’ve largely misunderstood love as an American culture. We’ve glorified romance above its root, allowing what was originally lagniappe to become the primary concern. We’ve confused affection for devotion, attraction for worth, lust for love (Fifty Shades of Grey is an especially crude example of this).
God created us for more than this. True love- his love- is not so fickle as our emotions often are. As we consider culture’s response to this tragic separation (and I do believe this is tragic; I don’t for one second desire to ridicule this couple), let us reflect on the truth revealed: love must be more than romance. Let our standard and source of strength be Christ, and let us no longer mistake romance for true love. May we show the world the better way as we set our eyes on things above.