The Spirit Calls, Gathers, Enlightens and Sanctifies God’s People
Live The Joy of Participating in the Sacred Romance
Sanctification is a journey each believer takes in his or her life with Christ. Each of our stories can be better appreciated against the background of the master story, the romance of being drawn closer to the heart of God. The book The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge is a favorite of mine for its challenge to see my personal story in the context of God’s big story.
Curtis and Eldredge invite us to think about our relationship with God as a fairy tale—a true one. God is the hero who comes to the rescue of the brokenhearted. The truth of the Gospel is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole hearts. Our heart is the key to the Christian life.
We are taught to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. We learn about three kinds of love. Brotherly love and unconditional agape love are the goals in relation to others. The third kind we mostly skip over—the romantic love of eros—because that goes to sexual attraction. But Curtis and Eldredge invite us to pause and reflect on our underlying longing to be attracted to another.
We Are Being Wooed
That longing is the setting for the Sacred Romance. Like any good fairy tale, the hero comes to the rescue of his beloved. God the Father is the author of this romance and God the Son is the lead character. We need to be delivered from the Arrows of life that inflict harm on us and cause us to pull away from the prince who wants to rescue us.
We wonder what God is up to the events in our life. Curtis and Eldredge propose, “The process of our sanctification, our journey rests entirely on our ability to see life from the basis of that question. Our lives are not random series of events; they tell a Story that has meaning. We aren’t in a movie we’ve arrived at twenty minutes late; we are in a Sacred Romance. There is something wonderful that draws our hearts; we are being wooed. Who are we, really? We are not pond scum, nor are we the lead in the story. We are the Beloved; our hearts are the most important thing about us.”
Curtis and Eldridge claim we have lived for so long with a propositional approach to Christianity we have nearly lost its true meaning. Rather we should see Scripture as a cosmic drama—creation, fall, redemption, future hope—dramatic narratives you can apply to all areas of life. “Our rationalistic approach to life has stripped us of a faith that is barely more than mere fact-telling. Modern evangelicalism reads like an IRS 1040 form: It’s true, all the data is there, but it doesn’t take your breath away. It does not force us to our knees in reverence and awe, as with Moses at the burning bush or the disciples in the presence of the risen Christ.”
The Big Picture of the Sacred Romance
According to Curtis and Eldredge, the big-picture Sacred Romance, began “Once up a time,” long ago with God in the loving relationships between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Before our overwhelming smaller stories began, there was something wonderful already going on.
That’s Act I His Eternal Heart. Act II is his Heart Betrayed. The angel Lucifer, as Satan, turned on his Maker and gained traction with others in the heavenly realm with the idea that God doesn’t have a good heart.
Act III is His Heart on Trial. God puts his heart on trial in the flurry of dramatic actions we call “creation.” What were his motives? Paul explained God’s intentions in the first chapter of Ephesians. “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Long before we got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs for glorious living” (The Message).
In order for a true romance to occur, we have to be free to reject him. After the Fall, we live now our own small tarnished lives that leave us unfulfilled; we settle for just getting through the daily and seasonal routines of our lives.
Act IV is Heaven, the continuation of the Story that has been interrupted by the Fall. God made the earth and entrusted it to us to bring order and increase beauty. “That arrangement was corrupted by the Fall so that the earth no longer responds to his leadership as it once did. When Christ accomplished our redemption, he didn’t do it to place us on the bench for eternity. He restored us to put us back in the game.”
Heaven is not something that begins only after this life is over. God’s rule in our hearts begins when we are drawn into a relationship with Christ. God invites us to participate in his ongoing work of restoring order and beauty. He calls us to participate in helping the kingdom of God break into the lives around us. Paul’s prayer is that the God of glory “make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you see exactly what it is he is calling you do, grasp the immensity of his glorious way of life he for Christians, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!” (Ephesians 1, The Message).
What Does God Want from Us?
The Incarnation was a daring raid into enemy territory. The whole world lay under the power of the evil one and we were held in the dungeons of darkness. God risked it all to rescue us. What does God want from us in response to his reckless ambition that shoves all conventions aside, willing literally to move heaven and earth?
“We’ve been offered many explanations. From one religious camp, we’re told that what God wants is obedience, sacrifice, or adherence to the right doctrines or morality. Those are the answers offered by conservative churches. The more therapeutic churches suggest that no, God is after our contentment, happiness, self-actualization, or something else along those lines. He is concerned about all these things, of course, but they are not his primary concern. What he is after is us—our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our fears, our hearts of hearts. Remember his lament in Isaiah 29:13, that though his people were performing all their duties, ‘their hearts are far from me.’”
The Still Small Voice
When the prophet Elijah was worn out and in need of restoration, he did not hear God in a great wind or earthquake or fire. Finally, he heard him in a “gentle whisper.” God today desires to talk with us in the quietness of our own hearts through his Spirit, who is in us. It is his voice that has whispered to us about a Sacred Romance, something much bigger than the distractions that keep me focused on the details of my life. The Spirit is wooing us to realize there is something more to my life than the routines I have settled for. He is wooing us to a closer relationship with Christ.
Without hearing the Spirit’s whispers urging us to look for something more in our life with God, making progress in the life of sanctification remains another duty. Our hearts have to be in the effort. It is not within us to change our sin-oriented hearts. We may want to rely on willpower, but that won’t last long and is likely to turn the journey into something grim.
The journey of sanctification is more likely to engage our hearts when we realize the much bigger story of what God wanted our relationship with him to be like in Act I of the Sacred Romance. Appreciating his wooing love can arouse our hearts of love to participate in the joy of sharing his love with others. We are part of something much bigger — the greatest love story ever told!
How does God woo us to himself, like in a fairy tale? How can we acquire the passion for the Sacred Romance as well as biblical facts?