Part of the dynamics of a good story focuses on a desire. Sometimes it’s a physical plot goal, sometimes it’s more of an emotional yearning. The romance shelf, of course, features the longing for love. But the not-so-odd paradox remains that 99% of the books you read—whatever their genre: mystery, fantasy, thriller—have a love thread entwined in the main plot.
Sometimes love appears as the principal story line, upstaging everything else. Sometimes it whispers, barely noticeable, buried down around subplot E. And it may not always even be about romantic love, per se. We have childhood loves, family love, friendships. We love pets, prizes, and possessions. There’s love of country and career and also, the Bible mentions, love of money.
But beneath all those fond attachments, dare I say that most of us in life and in books are just longing for love—a good old-fashioned “true love forever”? While love these days can mean anything from a trifling obsession to an earth-shattering tremor, it still manages to upend hearts and spin the world around. It can upset the best-laid plans, transform the most resistant souls. It creeps in like a soft sea mist or crashes on our shores like a tsunami.
“Fall in love with someone who is a home and an adventure all at once.” –Anonymous
Our profound longing for love in all its manifold forms produces not only romantic fiction but also nonfiction galore on the subject of relationships. Dating, marriage, sex, love languages, communication, roles, and biblical instruction on the topic—to name a few.
Love is an Adventure
And most of us can surely use all the good advice we can find for improving our love life. If you need professional help in your relationship, please seek it out. But lately, I’m reminded that while love doubtless entails hard work and commitment “for better, for worse,” our longing for love was originally a yearning for joy. A hunger for an exciting adventure.
Unless, of course, the doldrums have killed all dreams and desires. Let’s not get sidetracked here… Truthfully, did you fall in love to be bored? Sliding on a ring never meant sinking into a recliner. Setting your heart on one person isn’t the same as settling down in a slump.
“Love withers with predictability; its very essence is surprise and amazement. To make love a prisoner of the mundane is to take its passion and lose it forever.” –Leo Buscaglia
In The Mediterranean Love Plan, Stephen and Misty Arterburn share seven secrets to passion in life and in marriage, though not necessarily limited to the bedroom. I paraphrase #2-6:
- Play. Have fun together! Find whatever you enjoy…
- Cook and eat together! I like the sound—er, smell and taste—of that.
- Enjoy beauty together. That is, the wonders and masterpieces of both God’s and man’s creation.
- Do something creative together, whether in the area of literature, music, art, handcrafts, travel, etc.
- Stay healthy and active together in some physical activity. As Dr. Mark Shannan says, “Motion is lotion.”
All that strikes me as a thrilling journey through life together. So many romance books climax at the kiss or the proposal or the plans for a trip to the altar. Why? As if our eternal longing for love could culminate in a walk down the aisle? Although fifty years of marriage, or more, isn’t likely to skid along like one ongoing honeymoon, our love stories don’t have to end with the wedding bells.
Love is a Home
In my current Work-in-Progress, love is an important thematic element. Yet at this point, romantic love beats a distant retreat. Instead, Hope Chest touches on tough love within a family—Angie De la Cruz’s bond with her brother, her courage to stand up for a real love that doesn’t seek to control or dominate, her papá’s sacrifice in letting her go rather than see her smothered or abused.
But in this 7-part series, the wedding takes place at the beginning of the third book. The love song lingers long after the bridal march fades away. Here we encounter Angie and David Serrano, a couple whose lives are careening toward one tragedy after another, and whose happily-ever-after eventually terminates in death. (Not exactly a spoiler, since anyone who reads Destiny at Dolphin Bay, due out in a few weeks, will absorb some of their tale.)
“Grow old along with me, The best is yet to be.” –Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra
Their alliance attracts trouble. Their marriage generates conflict and means more problems than most people ever face. Yet their hearts remain tender toward God and passionate toward one another. The love grows on.
I think the Arterburns’ secret #1, which I skipped over earlier, comes in here:
- Connect, focus. Talk, touch. Stay tuned to one another.
For Angie and David, the best is always “yet to be,” and on the other hand, right here and now together. Their steadfast love provides a shelter and a refuge for the generations to come.
Love is a Balance
While I like to think all my plots draw to a positive—if not ecstatic—conclusion, some don’t necessarily end in the anticipated kiss and bliss. Real love stories point to as much about growth (which implies growing pains and growth spurts) as they do about the achievement of “affection perfection.” The ups and downs bring maturity to the relationship, and joy unmingled with sorrow lacks richness and depth.
Secret #7 to our longing for love and a passionate relationship is:
- Blend the sacred and the sexual. Bring Jesus into your private spaces for the ultimate recipe for intimacy.
Counterintuitive or not, the best romance balances the physical with the emotional and spiritual aspects of ourselves.
“True friends… face in the same direction–toward common projects, interests, goals—above toward a common Lord.” –C. S. Lewis
In Destiny at Dolphin Bay, the main character, Melissa Travis, searches for identity. She longs to discover her purpose, her niche in God’s kingdom. Book two, Pursuit of the Pudú Deer, highlights the idea of trust. Melissa wants to trust her love, Nico, and to trust her friends to have her back. She longs for her parents to trust her choices. And in book three, Legacy of the Linnebrink Light, Cristina, a girl who’s traveled the world, yearns for the security of a love to call Home.
Amid all three stories, the innate (and sometimes unacknowledged) longing for love weaves a strong foundation beneath the surface plots. From the depths of each tale, the question arises: “What would happen if two people’s longing for love leads them to seek, not the best for themselves (not sex, power, possession, or whatever their immediate need), but rather the best for the other?”
“True love waits for God’s time and God’s way.” –Diana Delacruz
Love, so often confused with baser emotions, is the great Gift.
Love, the wonder of the world, builds, affirms, encourages, lifts, blesses. It means more sacrifice than sentimentality. Perhaps the best love secret of all teaches us that the only way to reach what we long for is to give it away…by the armload. By the boatload. Do the unexpected, forgive the undeserving, touch the unlovable, smile in the face of the unbearable.
We’ll find that to experience a true version of that storybook love, without the God who is love, is all but impossible. Our longing for love reflects our thirst to fill the empty soul-space God created for Himself. We’re born to love and be loved, so the desire is as natural as for mother’s milk. We can die for lack of love.
But better, we can die for love. Love till we die. No wonder it’s the plot of all the world’s best stories.