A Sacred Love Story, Part I: Duty vs. Delight

Written by Anita Kelly Couch

On May 28, 2024

Isn’t it funny how the things we want the most often happen at the most unexpected times? I was oblivious that the moment of which I had dreamed since I was a little girl was actually about to happen. We had discussed marriage many times during the past year, but I really thought it would be awhile.

On that gorgeous Saturday afternoon, we walked hand in hand towards a nearby lake with the hot June sun warming our cheeks. As we stood on the bank, the sun’s rays glistened majestically across the water as if it were heaven’s spotlight on this sacred moment. He handed me a beautifully wrapped box and nervously said, “I want to ask you something.” My heart began to race as his dreamy, blue eyes stared straight into mine as if he could see directly into my soul.

The Most Unusual Proposal

He shyly lowered himself to one knee as he continued, “We have invested a year in our relationship and I feel that it is now my obligation to pursue a permanent commitment to you. That is the expectation and I take my duties very seriously. Will you marry me?”

WHAT? If your marriage proposal happened that way, you would immediately respond with a big, fat ‘NO’ as would I. Why?

No woman wants her future husband to love and marry her out of a sense of DUTY or obligation, but rather, out of a heart full of love and absolute DELIGHT!

He would tell you how he had always dreamed of marrying someone like you. After you said, “yes,” he would take you into his arms, kiss you and sweetly whisper, “It is my greatest desire to marry you. There is nothing that would give me any more pleasure than to spend the rest of my life with you and you alone! I love you so much!”

Okay, that’s more like it! Right, girls?

An engagement ring sits on a white cushion inside a red box. It's on a shiny, dark wood surface in between baby's breath flowers and generic dark green flower stems and leaves.

Duty or Delight? Romance or Religion?

Just as we would not want a man to propose out of obligation, Jesus is not proposing a life of dutiful, compulsive service to Him either. If that is what He had in mind, He would have saved Himself and us a lot of trouble and just created us as robots. We would have obeyed Him, but that would not have been love.

There is no mistaking God’s intention towards us:

“Long before He laid the earth’s foundations, He had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love”….
(Eph.1:4, The Message)

Yet, if the truth be known, it has only been more recently that I have more fully embraced and stepped into loving Jesus more out of delight than duty. For so long, I totally misunderstood His invitation, but it could not have been any clearer!

The Messiah will lead His people into the romance of eternal salvation”.
(Is.61:10, ESV Study Bible) (Eph.5:25-27; Rev.21:2, 9)

Wait a minute! What? “The romance of eternal salvation?”

What does romance and salvation have to do with each other? And why are they being used in the same sentence?

Personal Confession

Several years ago while in the throes of a severe bout of postpartum depression after the birth of my second child, I couldn’t sleep. Even though ironically, she was finally sleeping longer stretches of time. In my restlessness, I perused the book shelf and noticed a title I did not recognize, The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. There it was: God and romance. Those words intrigued me. Just the thought was enough to draw me in.

At that time, I had been a Christian for over twenty years, but never would I have described my life with God as a romance. It was more religious and dutiful than romantic and loving. The truth was: I was so weary of striving so hard, but it never seemed to be enough! I had tasted of freedom. I had overcome an eating disorder, for heaven’s sake! Yet here I was again, feeling so discouraged and defeated. Why did I push myself so hard?

Truthfully, as heretical as this sounds, I realize now:

I thought Jesus would love me more if I did more for Him.

Don’t get me wrong. That is not what I said I believed! Certainly, that is not what I taught others. Yet the state of my heart that night was solid proof that that was exactly what I truly believed. And it had left me so empty and exhausted.

WITH GOD had become activity FOR GOD.

DUTY and obligation had replaced LOVE and devotion.

My mantra had become, “I HAVE TO have a quiet time!” instead of living in amazement every moment of the day that “I GET TO have an audience with the King of Glory!”

Waking Up to Love

As I began to read that night, my weary, worn-out soul awakened to the magnificent hope that a divine romance with God was not only possible, but it had been God’s desire all along! That night I accepted Jesus’ proposal to journey into deeper intimacy with Him. That was 21 years ago, and I can tell you: there is absolutely no comparison to the relationship I now enjoy with Jesus.

“When I found Him whom my soul loves, I held onto Him and would not let Him go.” 
(Song 3:4)

You don’t become lovers overnight, so just start by simply asking, ”Jesus, please lead me into the romance of Your salvation. I want to love and serve You out of delight, not duty.”

What is holding you back from the Love of your life?

Prayer

Ask Jesus to reveal to you where you are serving Him out of duty and not delight. Ask Him why that particular service seems more like duty and not delight.  Could it be a result of striving to earn God’s affection? If that’s the case,  tell God you want to love and serve Him more out of delight and not duty.

Recommended Reading:

The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God
by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge, Thomas Nelson Publishers

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
by Dr. Tim Keller, Penguin Publishing Group

Tired of Trying to Measure Up: Getting Free from the Demands, Expectations, and Intimidation of Well Meaning People
by Jeff VanVonderen, Bethany House Publishers

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