How to Read Love Stories
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When I was a young girl, I loved reading love stories. Elisabeth Elliot’s Quest for Love, Eric and Leslie Ludy’s When God Writes Your Love Story, and many others filled my bookshelves.
One would think that I would grow out of such a thing, but alas I never did. I still enjoy hearing a good love story.
There are some great ones in my circle. The two doctors who met and married in medical school, and how the day he was going to propose they were sitting on a bench together—and she noticed that his heart was beating incredibly fast. Of course she noticed! We all laugh.
Or the couple who met on a volleyball court at summer camp. They were on opposite teams but he thought she was cute, so he kept spiking the ball at her. It kind of irritated her so she taunted him a bit. Afterward, they talked and laughed and then wrote letters for a year while he lived in Europe. Even though he had a different girlfriend when they first met, she won his heart through her witty letters and bright laughter. He came home and married her.
And then there is the couple who knew each other for years, but he wasn’t following the Lord so her mind was elsewhere. But eventually God got ahold of him and as he turned back to the Lord, her eyes were turned to him. When he asked permission to court her, her father laid out some firm boundaries. The young man willingly submitted and followed the directions. On his own, he chose to not kiss her until their wedding day. “She’s not just another girl on a list,” he said, “and I want to start honoring her now.” We set off fireworks at her wedding. It was beautiful.
The stories are as varied as the people they represent. Different life experiences, different mistakes, different families, different callings.
It’s marvelous to hear all the many ways that the Lord works. He is the author of love and our love stories are unique expressions of His heart. But we have to be careful.
1. We have to be careful to not read love stories as prescriptions for our own lives.
When you hear a love story it is the description of something that happened, not a prescription of how to make that very same thing happen in your own life.
It’s easy to hear a love story and think, “Oh, here is a good way to do it! This seems safe,” and then brag it up. We’re all guilty of it (and we at Kindred Grace do apologize for the times we’ve led to that type of thinking). But that is a mistake because while Scripture gives some important guidelines, it does not include a how-to when it comes to choosing a mate.
That said, there is still beauty in love stories and much to learn through reading them. We just need to keep a few things in mind as we read.
2. There is no formula for a perfect love story
In Scripture we have not been given step-by-step directions for finding a mate. So anytime we are tempted to say, “This is how to do it!” then we’re stepping outside of God’s direction.
There are dozens of “methods” for courtship, dating, and engagement. One is not more right than the other. They are just different and that’s okay. We need to be willing to hear someone’s story without trying to write a how-to manual from it or attempting to tear it apart because it doesn’t fit our ideals.
My friends who didn’t kiss until their wedding day made that choice for the good of their relationship, because of where they had been and what they personally needed to keep God at the center. I am awe of that. But my own story was different. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s good!
We do have some important Biblical principles to cling to and those things are prescriptive. Not a prescription to produce a certain event in life (like marriage) but a prescription for right living. Some of the biggies are:
- Respect authority (1 Peter 5:5).
- True love isn’t self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13).
- Just because something is lawful doesn’t mean it is helpful (1 Corinthians 12:23).
- There is wisdom in many counselors (Proverbs 15:22).
3. God can work through any and every circumstance
As humans, we are so quick to write things off. We mess up, then crumple our papers and want to start over. We can’t do that in life. But the good news is that God meets us where we are.
And when it comes to love stories, there isn’t a perfect way. Every single one of us will walk into every single relationship as a sinner or a sinner saved by grace. That’s it. There is no other option.
Purity is being in right relationship with God. Being able to check off a list of have-dones or have-not-dones is great, but has nothing to do with true purity.
When we are reading love stories, we need to focus on what God has done—not on what the people did—because our very best “rightness” is still worth nothing in the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t guarantee us a single thing. Love stories are about how God moved, even when people didn’t have any idea that He was there.
In the story of the doctors who met and married in med school, neither of them were believers at the time. But God was still at work in their story, drawing them to Himself. Years later they would move to a little town with a Mennonite neighbor who would tell them to read the story of Nicodemus in the Bible. They would listen and read and together they would walk into the Kingdom.
Their story is even more beautiful because they didn’t have any idea what they were doing—but God was working anyway.
Let’s not forget that the beauty in love stories is really a reflection of God’s goodness. And let’s focus on who He is, not on what people have done.
4. We need to embrace the differences in love stories and stop trying to put God in a box
Part of the beauty of reading love stories is experiencing the many differences in them. Some may seem similar from a distance, but when you look up close, every story is unique.
Which means, if you have a love story, it will be unlike any that you’ve ever read before—because it will be yours. Don’t read stories looking for the one you want, because you’ll never find the one you will get. Just enjoy them for their variety, for their beauty.
God can’t and won’t be boxed in by our ideals.
Whether you date or court or just up and marry your best friend one day, God can be working through it. Let all be done for His glory.
So please come and read through the love story archives at Kindred Grace, enjoy them for their variety and their beauty. But don’t try to create a formula or attempt to think that God’s way can be boxed up carefully and labeled. He isn’t a tame lion, you know. But He is good. So enjoy reading about His goodness in the lives of all these dear people and trust that He will do good in your own life!
Photography: JenniMarie Photography
So guilty on doing that! Looking back, I think God even wrote mine in such a way that I couldn’t feel smug about having the ‘perfect’ story in a way that meant I had done perfect the way I always assumed perfect was.
I think we want a map with bullet point lists so that we can follow it, check everything and feel great about ourselves because we did such a good job. At least, I do 😉
Isn’t it great how God can write so many billions of individual stories, and also how He loves us and helps us so slowly to not be so abominably prideful? !
First, I love this. So much grace, so much truth, so much hope. I love that last graphic quote: “The beauty in love stories is really a reflection of God’s goodness.” Amen. That was my constant prayer at the start of my own relationship: show me–and others–Your Glory in this.
Second, I adore your bio, Natasha. With your husband “and two children.” Praise God!