Some time ago Portsmouth University advertised its courses with the slogan: “What comes after the Internet?” Unfortunately the answer does not lie in any of their courses, or those of any other university. Innovation cannot be taught, only inspired and encouraged.
Many things in life are not located on any map, there is no guidebook, no ‘x’ marks the spot. They cannot be summed up in a whistle stop visit or captured on a postcard. There is no one hour audio guide available in ten different languages with special versions for children in German, Italian and English.
Romance is one of those things.
We want answers to all of our questions, but the more we look the more we find more questions to our answers. I flippantly wrote my guide to Christian dating recently, it took me quite a while to write and I removed bits I thought were too quirky or liable to misinterpretation. And still a few people thought it was out of line, they were fuming until the humour hit, if it hit at all.
I wrote it because I felt there was a need for clarity in the romantic interactions between guys and girls in church. I’ve got a couple of half written posts stored where I try to bring light to the subject, plus a short story that I hoped would illustrate with ease what I was struggling to say. In the end I opted for satire. I hoped to gentle show the eccentricity of our habits, but inadvertently I think I took on another liability we too easily slip into: wanting step-by-step instructions for every part of life.
I’m currently buying a flat and no one has told me how to do it. All the easy guides I find are either too complicated or don’t fit the specifics of my situation. Everyone I ask adds more factors into the equation. And I end up doing things in the wrong order and then rushing to catch up.
When it comes to relationships I want the idiot’s guide. I want the full colour illustrated edition with helpful footnotes and explanatory captions. I want it to be a dot-to-dot drawing, or one of those paint by numbers kits. I want someone else to do the hard work for me.
The latest talk in the Love is a Verb series focussed on singleness (more on that soon) and dating and the part that hit me hardest was exactly this point. Expect mess.
In the confluence of emotions and attraction between two people there will be mess, and the awkward outworking of this in thoughts and words and actions will not be straightforward. A bit like the reason no one can provide a simple guide for house buying because the exceptions out number the rules, no one can tell me how a relationship can and should pan out.
I tell someone I’m interested, but they are not. As hurt overshadows hope I wish it could be easier.
As the the girl I like walks off with another, I want to know how to stop this happening next time.
But maybe some things in life should be hard. Maybe the challenge and the climb, and the opportunities to bail out make the summit more of a joy.
Maybe the mess of the beginnings will remind us that mess is not washed away by rings and ceremonies and matching bible covers.