“Eve is drawn from Adam’s side and leaves that ache that never goes away until he is with her again.” — John Eldredge
I think I felt it first in Kindergarten, sometime after lunch when playing tag on the playground. It was the sudden longing for the other. I did not know why at the time, but I felt a sudden skip in my heartbeat and my chest became warmer when the cute girl chased and tagged me. We spent nearly ever recess together, and I still have the letter she wrote me at the end of the year, just weeks before she moved. Over the next following months and years, I felt that feeling again — that mysterious feeling that rises from deep within one’s soul, as if the sun is shining right on your heart and radiates exponentially outward. The warmth would transcend to my hand whenever a girl would hold it, although that was rare.
And then came the years of puberty, when the feeling in my chest suddenly moved downward, and a new mystery awoke within my being. The longing for the other became even more apparent, and I wished to be the man who would walk 500 miles and 500 more just to show up at his beloved’s door.
But to my dismay, I became the 20 year old who has yet to have his first kiss. For years I thought a girl would one day show up at my front door like a Jehovah’s Witness. But that has yet to happen. I consider myself a hopeless romantic, meaning that I dream about a relationship but remain passive in pursuing one. I remember telling my counselor a few months ago that, “I just don’t think God has sent me the right girl,” to which he responded, “maybe. Or maybe God has sent you five, and you don’t have the kahunas to talk to any of them.” To be clear, I am not saying I necessarily regret not having my first kiss, nor am I purposefully setting out to achieve it. I am just saying that I am somewhat behind when it comes to psychosocial development, for all you psychology nerds out there.
The truth is that, over the years as I have been wounded by the Enemy, I have learned to protect myself from any sort of relational pain by simply refusing to take the risk of entering a relationship. As one of my friends said in regards to romance, “the safest and easiest way to avoid pain is to not take risks. But it is also the safest and easiest way to avoid joy.” I remember sitting in his truck with him, talking for nearly two hours about the profound disappointment and confusion he was experiencing after his girlfriend broke up with him — the girl he planned on marrying. It was as if the missing rib from his side had been found, only to be torn away again. Only this time, it was even more painful than the longing that haunted him before they met. Our conversation shifted to our own fears regarding romance and love, as well as the wounds we have felt from our fathers and the anger we have felt toward God. I have learned that nearly all good conversations revolve around God, girls, and a mysterious longing to be fathered. And when it comes to girls, Kenny Chesney was right in saying that “girls were a mystery we couldn’t explain, and I guess there are some things that are never gonna change.”
Much like many other men whose hearts have been assaulted by the Enemy — whether it be through shame, guilt, fear, or believing I am not good enough or “don’t have what it takes” — my defense mechanism from vulnerability and intimacy has failed to drown out the desire deep within my soul to be seen, to be known, and to be vulnerable. But of course my heart feels the way — God himself said that it is not good for me to be alone (Genesis 2:18), and yet I mask my solitude, isolation, and fear of intimacy as “fleeing from sexual immorality” and “pursuing righteousness.” But I am made in the image of a Triune God, which means that in my very nature I am relational. Man does not live on bread alone, but man can also not live in loneliness. Just ask Christopher McCandless.
I believe it is the humility of God which allows for us to need more than Him. Despite the countless times my heart has ran from love whenever given the slightest opportunity to, the embers begin to flicker and my chest begins to warm when in the presence of a Daughter of the King. It is in these moments when I wish I was in the world of Narnia or Middle-Earth, Hogwarts or Endor. For it is in those worlds where I feel most comfortable, for as the readers of The Chronicles of Narnia know, “once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.” Yet this world is not Narnia, and my front door is not a wardrobe. In this world, I am most often accompanied by feelings of frailty and shame, fear and timidness. Which, as you know, do not pair well with women.
Perhaps this is why so many men get lost in the fantasy world of pornography, or in the hook-up culture, or why some choose to “settle down” and marry, but treat their wife more like a prize that was won rather than a woman to be loved. Rather than continuing to date her in the marriage, the man who settles is the one who goes in to autopilot, normally out of the spirit of “getting by” or “tradition.” Maybe he even laughs in the face of the man who believes in true love, a love that is just as wild as it is a choice. I have come to believe that the ways I have often felt in regards to life are not all that different from the ways other men have felt — it is just that I admit them, while the others sweep their heart under the rug and replace it with a stone labeled “cynicism.”
We live in a world filled with proposition and reason, logic and rationalism. All of these can be quite good and beneficial, yet I fear they have in many ways taken away the beauty, mystery, and wildness of romantic love. We in the Church have boiled God down to a few systematic attributes, and the secular world has boiled romantic love down to a few chemical and biological facts regarding the touching of mandibles and the sensation of sensory nerves. Our lives have been robbed of beauty and mystery, and we wonder why people find the true Gospel so hard to believe and why so many marriages are falling apart. I mean, really, how many men do you hear saying this of their wife?
“Your thighs shelter a paradise of pomegranates with rare spices” — Song of Solomon 4:13
Or, how many women say of their husbands,
“His arms are rods of gold set with topaz. His body is like polished ivory decorated with lapis lazuli” (Song of Solomon 5:14)?
It almost sounds…scandalous. Sinful. Immoral. And yet these are verses in the Bible that give us an image of a husband and wife’s pure, wild, and unadulterated love for one another. But of course, this book was conveniently skimmed over in the Veggie Tales stories, and when a curious kid asks a question in youth group, he is sure to get an answer along the lines of, “if you have to ask that, it is too far” or “let’s not talk about that right now.”
And so he is taught to kill his desire, labeling it as innately wrong or sinister, and maybe even busying himself with religious duties to keep himself from “slipping up.” And yet all the while he has a hidden longing and curiosity within him for intimacy and love, for a woman to share the adventure of life with, a woman who in some way reveals to him the nature and mystery of God, whose beauty leads him to worship the One whose image she bears.
I am that kid, and I don’t think that ache ever goes away.