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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

what is romance & why is it important?



I know, I know. That’s a majorly loaded question and one that could be interpreted a thousand different ways and thereby answered in a million different ones—which would obviously take much more than one short blog post. So don’t expect some in-depth and revolutionary teaching that will change the way you see relationships from me. Nerp. Today, I’m simply looking at romance in fictional form and examining why romance novels (or other mediums of entertainment that explore romance) are important when, to an outsider, they look like silly little daydreams meant to corrupt the impressionable minds of young women and set them up for grave disappointment in the future.

I think this question, although confined to the literary context, is especially relevant on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day, when romance is simultaneously abhorred and celebrated the most out of any day of the year. See, the way so many people view romance novels is a reflection of the way they see romance itself, in real life. And while I cannot, nor do I aspire to, change your real-life relationships or the way you perceive the world, I would like to challenge the narrative that well-meaning folks and the bilge rats of the world alike put out regarding romance. I would like to redefine it. Reclaim it. And restore it to what it was originally intended, by God, to be.

Through the power of fiction and this one short blog post.


what is romance?


To answer that question, I’d like to begin by telling you what romance is not.

Romance is not flighty feelings—“oh, he’s so cute, I love the way he makes me feel.” Romance is not an arrangement—“we need to plan a date night this weekend.” Romance is not a series of boxes to check-mark— “let me buy her a bunch of fancy stuff so she’ll like me.”

And romance is not the lie the enemy has spoon-fed us for centuries. He wants to capitalize on hormones and fleshly desires by marketing a night of pleasure as romance. Even worse, he wants to prey on our God-given desire to be loved and treasured by convincing us that whatever Tom, Dick, or Harry (or Thomasina, Richardina, and Harriet, for my dudes out there) who gives us the time of day will provide those things.

Ultimately, romance and romantic relationship go far beyond the materialistic “requirements” or the worldly lies.

Romantic relationships are a gift from God. A type of relationship shared only by humans, only here on earth, to reflect the self-sacrificing love of God for His bride.

Romance comes from love, although love in itself is not romance (all romance is derived from love, but not all love is romantic, if that makes sense). Love is the choice you make to put someone above yourself. Love is that beautiful thing that is not proud or unkind or impatient or selfish. Love is the outpouring of God’s heart among us. Love is the power that triumphs over death.

And romance is an expression of that love, an experience of it combined with the hormones and heartfelt feelings that God also gave us. Because romance is a God-ordained, God-defined creation, it is only through God that you can experience it in its fullness.

So whatever the world offers—from cold, emotionless arrangements to warm but fleeting feelings to relationships based on lustful desires—is naught but a cheap imitation of this mysterious but powerful thing God created. Trying to confine romance to or define it solely by one of the elements thereof—the fun outings, the tender kisses, the sweet words, the soul-deep feelings, the hormonal reactions, the fleshly desires—strips it of its essence (love) and makes it into a cardboard cutout that cannot compare to the real thing. It makes it a disappointment and disillusion. A silly little daydream and a corruption of the mind and heart.

But the real thing? Oh, the real thing is glorious! It’s all those elements—from date nights to physical attraction—but combined with that intense and pure desire for another person—a desire that God has given us for the purpose of reflecting His love for us and, of course, procreation. 😉

If that doesn’t describe romance good enough for you, I gotta send you back to the source. Flip to that forbidden book of the Bible, old Song of Solomon, to get the full meal deal, the most accurate (and poetic) definition of what true, God-given romance is supposed to look like. I hope to one day write a something-or-another about Song of Solomon in more detail, but to summarize my thoughts on it…people misdefine it and misuse it so much. Especially in the Christian literary community, people think of Song of Solomon as erotic and regard it as permission to write erotic things. “Oh, but Solomon went into full detail about the human anatomy, so I can too.” “But in Song of Solomon and the rest of the Bible, there’s so much sex, so it’s okay if I write sex too.”

OBVIOUSLY YOU’VE NEVER READ IT IF YOU THINK SONG OF SOLOMON IS EROTICA, IMBECILE.

*huffs and straightens glasses*

Pardon my outburst, but seriously. Read Song of Solomon for what it is—poetry about romance and love, which reflects God’s intimate love for His people. Comparing a belly button to a goblet or lips to wine or breasts to roses is not the same as erotic and detailed descriptions of body parts or sexual actions. SoS is erotic in the sense that it speaks of erotic/romantic love, but not in the sense that it arouses erotic thoughts in the reader—which is what erotic literature does. Misdefining the contents of SoS contributes to misdefining and misrepresenting romance and love and sex as something that it’s not—which is exactly what the devil is trying to do.

Anyway. Rant’s over. We can continue with the topic at hand now.


the importance of romance in literature


It’s so easy to fall back on the enemy’s definition of romance and group all romance novels into one lump sum based on the world’s offerings—cheesy, meaningless stories that rely on that list of boxes to check off (like Hallmark movies, for example) or garbage that makes abusive, immoral relationships founded on nothing but lust seem romantic.

And it’s because of the crap out there that we need God-honoring, real romance novels. It’s because romance gets such a bad rap that we examples of romance that are pure and edifying.

Even if you dislike romance, or you simply find no use for it in your current season of life, it’s still so important. It’s important because it goes so far beyond mushy feelings or icky thoughts. Because God thought it was important enough to create. Because it’s a reflection of God’s feelings for us. Because it brings a little light and life into this world. Because it’s life-changing and powerful and beautiful and exciting and absolutely lovely. Because, without it, there are a lot of things that would be pretty darn boring. winks

And romance novels matter because they give us examples of relationships and people in those relationships. Some show us what not to do…others show us what to do. Either way, we can learn from them and be inspired by them to be the kind of spouse we’d want someday, to be the kind of person someone would daydream about and desire to be with, to be the kind of person worthy of a beautiful love story, to be the kind of person God has called us to be. We can strengthen our convictions through them, learn not to settle through them, and enhance our common sense with them.

The way I see it, we could eschew all things romance and purge our books (or other media, or our entire lives) of it, and thereby make the same mistake a lot of folks did during the purity culture movement. 😬 We can refuse to speak about romantic relationships, dating, sex, lust, purity, etc., and let the world control the narrative.

Or we can take back the reins and provide our teens, our young women, our young men even, with the truth. With God’s definition of romance and His description of a healthy relationship. With examples that inspire and encourage rather than corrupt.

My friend H. S. Kylian once said, and I’ll never forget it, “I get so tired of people saying it’s ‘refreshing’ when a book they read has no romance or when they brush it off as ‘fluff’ – I’m like, ‘We live in a fallen world where sin has distorted romance, marriage, and sex, and you want to call it ‘refreshing’ when a book doesn’t have romance???’ If anything, we need more romance, not less…”

If we as Christians don’t speak up, Satan will. The world will. This wicked and perverted society will. If we don’t create content—from devotionals and podcasts to small groups and conferences to fictional books and movies—that promotes Godliness, holiness, purity, and true love…then our world will continue to be pervaded by filthy lies. People will continue to be deceived. Children will continue to be groomed.

I know that’s putting a heavy burden on mere books—but look at the success of Fifty Shades of Gray. Look at the popularity of the modern counterpart Colleen Hoover. Look at what our fellow humans—our brothers and sisters, our best friends, our children—consume. Look at what’s in control of society, of our culture.

Literature is important. Writing is important. Nothing else changes lives, shapes minds, ends wars, ushers in redemption, like words.

So I don’t know about you, but I’m committed creating romances that promote traditional relationships, that emphasize purity over pleasure, and reflect Christ’s love for His church, even when the world wants to write it off as outdated and Christians want to eschew it. I’m committed to making sure that my future children will live in a world leagues better than mine. A world where they can explore and grow without being bombarded by perverseness and depravity. A world that nurtures them and leads them back to God. A world that promotes truth over the lies of the enemy.

Even if you don’t want to read or write romance novels, we are each called to lift our brothers and sisters in Christ up, to not be a stumbling block to others, to shine the light of Christ and spread His word to the ends of the earth. And that includes sharing biblical truths about marriage, sex, love, and romance. So you can do that in a myriad of ways that don’t include reading/writing romance—from sharing other people’s writing on the subject that’s biblically sound to having a Bible study on purity and love with your friends to simply living according to God’s Word and being an example to those around you. In the end, what matters is that we fulfill the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV, emphasis mine).


 

Shameless promotion here, but if you have the same desire to see more God-honoring, pure romances but don't know how to find them or where to start...may I recommend Tell Me You Love Me? A year ago today, I released this anthology full of beautiful romances by some of the most talented young Christian writers, and since then, dozens of readers have lost their hearts to the love stories within. Tell Me You Love Me has been described as “charming," “refreshing," and a “must-read" by reviewers—and even though I may be biased as the curator, I can confirm that each of these stories embodies the biblical truths of love and romance. Rather than corrupting or confusing, these stories edify and inspire and foster biblical convictions.

You can find Tell Me You Love Me on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats! In fact, at midnight PST (or 3am if you're EST like me) today, the Kindle version of Tell Me You Love Me will be ✨free✨ until the same time on Saturday, the 17th.


 

Why is romance important to you? How can you promote the biblical truth about romance, love, sex, and marriage? What are some romance novels that have impacted the way you view relationships (whether positively or negatively)?










(I'm an Amazon affiliate, which means that I make a small commission off of qualifying purchases made through my Amazon links at no extra cost to you.)

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18 Comments


Issabelle Perry
Feb 16

YES! I LOVE this, Gracie! Your heart and passion for bringing back God's definition of love and romance into literature is so inspiring to me. What I find refreshing in books isn't a lack of romance but when it is presented in a way counter to the world and more in line with God's purpose for romance. That is not to say I dislike books that don't have romance because I believe they have their own purposes as well, but I guess what I would love to see more in literature is love presented in the biblical definition of it. It's astounding how much the world has twisted what real, true, authentic love is, in both romantic relationships as well…

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Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson
Feb 16
Replying to

THANK YOU!! Awww, I'm so glad. 🥰 Yes, exactly!! Preach it!! 🤭 Thank you for reading!!

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Malana
Feb 15

Ah, Grace, this was so good. And inspiring. And true and powerful, and made me excited just reading it, for the possibility of words being used to redeem and inspire and nurture. (Also I'm really excited to start on my first full length romance novel with this in mind, where I was slightly nervous of doing it before)

I'd have to say Jane Austen has been my most inspiring/thought provoking romance writer!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thank you so much for sharing this!

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Malana
Feb 16
Replying to

(Thank you so much, Saraina! I'm really excited :D )

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Stephanie Chittle
Feb 15

Wow! I don't usually read romance, but that's only because I can't find anything that is both appropriate for my age (I'm nearly fourteen) and not fluff or teen drama. Although, I'm always in the mood for a good old fairy tale retelling. I DID read your book Held Captive, and I loved it -- it's amazing how you wrote it when you were just about twelve.

What I DO usually enjoy in books is when the author integrates romance into the plot, without making it the entire point of the story. This is done in the Hunger Games, in Harry Potter, and in tons of other cool books I've read.

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Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson
Feb 15
Replying to

Oof, I understand the challenge, Stephanie! I read a lot of Melanie Dickerson and Jody Hedlund's YA books (mostly their older books; their newer ones are kinda meh) when I was younger that were so sweet but also more age-appropriate than other romances! If you ever need any recommendations, I'd be glad to give you some!


Aww, I'm so glad enjoyed it!!! 🥰


YES!!! The Hunger Games is the GOAT. 🤭 I love that too!! It often feels really unrealistic when the story is 100% romance, plus it makes actually developing the characters and creating an engaging story so much harder without other conflicts and subplots! I think you would really love Unblemished or The Wonderland Trials by Sara Ella!…

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Saraina Whitney
Feb 15

Wow, Grace. YES. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. It's because of all the perversion of romance and love that we absolutely need the real stuff!! Literature is so much more important than people realize! 😭


Honestly, the novels that have most impacted the way I view romance are Julie Lessman's O'Connor family saga. The value she places on putting God first in relationships, genuine purity that focuses on God (instead of mere paranoid over every little misstep, or, for lack of a better word, prudishness), and the FREEDOM found in following God's precepts - it's really impacted me. She's just so honest and real in her books. They're not for everyone, lol...but they've been so powerful for me. 😊

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Saraina Whitney
Feb 15
Replying to

<33333


Yessss!! Exactly!!!

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Iona Barton
Feb 14

This had so many little one-liners and paragraphs for me right now!! They stuck out and hit their mark very well, I am now further equipped and reminded of why stories with romance (and anything else!) from a Faith perspective matter. Thank you Grace!! Romance is important to me for a lot of the same reasons as you: display it and redeem it as what it truly, truly is! 🎉

Jane Austen books (and adaptions) always give me plenty to think about as a writer, and a young women. While she is famous for creating raise-the-bar-crazy-high heroes, my sister and I often discuss the growth that a lot of those same heroes have to go through. The ones that come…


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Grace A. Johnson
Grace A. Johnson
Feb 14
Replying to

Aww, that's so wonderful, Iona!! I'm so glad this post spoke to you! You're so welcome, girl! Thank you for reading!!

Ooooh, yes! Austen is SUCH a good example!!

Oh, it is my pleasure, sweet girl! All the glory and honor to God!

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