“If I go up in the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
Warning: This is an adult themed post. There is a little bit of graphic language style, mimicking romance books that I have read in the past.
Ok, so, I confess. I read romances. Reading romances are my secret vice. Not so secret now, I guess. I used to be a binge reader. Back then I claimed that I was reading for research. I had started writing a romance once, years and years ago. Only had the first few pages, handwritten. I took it to my neighbor, who openly read romances, to see if it was any good. I still remember when she turned the last page, looked at me with dismay in her face, and said “Where’s the rest of it?” I still have that opening, although I never finished it. Maybe someday I will – it is a good opener. But I claimed that my romance reading was for research. I even thought it was, until the day that I realized that I only read romances when I was depressed. In fact, I got to the point of gaging my depression amount by how many romances I read in a day.
The local library used to sell discarded books, and Romances were a dime apiece. I could go in with a dollar and come out with 10 of them. When I was really depressed, I would read 4-5 books a day. And so it went. Feeling extra lonely? Grab a romance. Feeling low self-worth? Grab a romance. Feeling inept, no confidence, poor? Grab a romance. The romances were all about change – The lonely, poor, insecure ugly duckling always blossoms into a beautiful princess who ends up with the rich prince. Once in a while, it was the ugly duckling blossoming into a handsome prince. Regardless, the pattern was/is the same.
I only remember reading two romances when I was a kid – one Barbara Cartland, which some 40 years later, I still have, and a Georgette Heyer I snuck from my sister, which I enjoyed because of the historical aspects. They were the first authors that I looked for when I started reading romances in the 80s. I quickly grew tired of Barbara Cartland, I’m afraid. “She gazed breathlessly into his eyes…strange sensations started filling her body…As he reached for her, she swayed, her knees weakening…Just as she fell into a swoon…he ruthlessly swooped her up into his arms. “You are mine, and always will be…” he whispered as he carried her to their marriage bed…”Yes,” she replied brokenly. “I am yours…forever…”
Cartland’s women were always breathless, it seemed, and a tad on the weak side. The men were always a little on the ruthless and overbearing side. And all of those dot, dot, dots … as a kid, I didn’t know what that meant, much. I just knew it led to something else.
Georgette Heyer was a little more racy (not much, by today’s standards, at least the ones that I’ve read) and the ones I read were always fun. But there were others, as well. I volunteer at the local literacy council, and they run a non-profit used bookstore. For a while we were selling romances at 10 for a dollar, or an already loaded box for $5.00. Harlequins and Silhouettes were the most abundant of the romances we carried. They have several imprints, included Harlequin Temptations and Silhouette Desires. Oh, My Goodness. I had no idea that writing could get that explicit, and not be considered pornography. “She carefully placed one manicured fingertip on the top of his engorged shaft, lightly rubbing the glistening drop that appeared. He groaned as he held tightly to the shreds of his self-control…” WHEW!! It went a long way toward explaining why we had men buying those romances. When I volunteered to organize the romance section of the store, those went on the very top shelf, the one that needed a step-stool to reach. If someone wanted them, they would have to work at it. And the other books – well, not quite as explicit, maybe, as those particular imprints, but far racier than I remembered from when I read them in the 80s. With some it was not until the marriage bed, with others it was on the engagement night, with still others, it was within minutes of meeting for the first time. With some, desire fueled love, with others, love fueled desire – but it was all much much more explicit than I remembered romances being when I was a kid, or even as an adult when I first started reading them. In the world of commerce, sex sells.
And as I read these books, I thought of all the young people – girls mostly, but some guys as well, who read the romances. What types of things are we allowing our children to see? Many people view romance novels as nothing more than escapist literature. Romantic. Harmless. If you are a parent, have you ever read your children’s books? Do you know what they are reading? Do you know what they are learning? Deciding what is right and wrong? Do you really want your daughter to grow up feeling as though even if she says no, it is OK, for her boyfriend to “sweep her away on a tide of emotion, as she felt her denial seep away under his ruthless kisses”? Do you want your sons to believe that it is acceptable to kiss away objections? Too many books portray just that type of feeling.
You may wonder what a scripture is doing at the top of this. I started writing on a very different topic. You see, I still read romances. There are still romances that give me that escapism, that romance, that hope for a less lonely future. And they do it without the explicit sex. There is another genre out there, of “inspirational romance”. Steeple Hill is one imprint. I have heard of some authors that once wrote quite racy romances, who have given over their life to God, and now write inspirational romances. Other people saw a market for romances that had God as the center of the relationship. I joke and say that inspirational romances are just romances without the sex, and with scripture thrown in, but they are actually a little bit more than that. I said I read romances when I am depressed, when I want to escape. I now buy most of my romances from the inspirational section. The interesting thing to me is this – maybe it is God’s hand, but so many times I have picked a romance to read, and found that one of those scriptures that are quoted in them is the one that I needed to hear that day. And so it was today – feeling a bit alone, isolated, lonely…and in the inspirational romance that I am reading, the main character’s uncle tells her to read Psalms 139: 1-18. The book only quotes part of the scripture. So I got my Bible and start reading it…
“Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up in the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”
When I am loneliest, feel the most alone, God is there. When I want to escape, God is there. When I flee, God is there. When I let him, he fences out dangers. He knew and formed me in my mother’s womb. To quote from St. Patrick’s Lorica,
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
So, I guess the whole point of this particular rant, which has rambled a bit, and gone far afield, is to say this – no matter how lonely I may feel, I am never alone.
Hope you have a great day.