Guest Blogger: Gwen Stewart on Romance

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a question on the blog about the role of romance in Christian fiction, and you all answered eloquently and thoroughly. (I love that about you guys!)Gwen Stewart had a lot to say on the topic, so I invited her to share her thoughts.
***I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.
Song of Songs 7:10

The beating heart of romance undergirds every word of Song of Songs, illustrating the beauty of God’s plan for love and marriage. I believe this book of the Bible holds a message the hurting world needs to hear.Christians shine Jesus’ light in darkness. We feed the hungry, house the homeless, and tend the sick. Yet, when it comes to the world’s twisted view of romance, we too often cover our eyes and slink away, offended by debauchery but too embarrassed to proclaim God’s truth about romantic love.In the verse above, however, the beloved seems unembarrassed to proclaim her truth: she belongs to her lover. She knows he desires only her.As a writer of Christian romance, a popular genre among Christians and non-Christians alike, I long to represent male-female relationships with the authenticity of the Song of Songs woman. In order to portray romantic love accurately, my characters need to feel a balance of belonging and desire.Christian romance writers depict belonging with excellence. Our characters belong to each other and in a new or deepened relationship with Jesus by novel’s end. However, human belonging without desire equals friendship. Christian romance is more than friendship, as demonstrated in Song of Songs.Desire is an important part of the romantic equation. Portraying desire on our pages is difficult. An overemphasis on desire risks offending God, our readers, and our own sensibilities. However, a lack of desire dilutes the above verse to “I sorta like him, and he thinks I’m pretty nice.” I don’t think nice represents the longing of Song of Songs, a strong desire that, before marriage, knows when to draw closer and when to pull away.If we seek God’s help and write with prayer, we can find the balance between belonging and desire in our fiction, sharing God’s plan for romance. We can write the exhilarating journey to the altar. We can depict that romantic love between a godly husband and wife is unparalleled among humans in its beauty and power.Do you hear the voice of the Song of Songs maiden echoing through thousands of years as she proclaims her truth? Let’s share her message. The world needs her healing words desperately.

Gwen Stewart is a novelist and music teacher wholoves Jesus, her family, and words written and sung.

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  • Anita Mae

    >Rachelle and Gwen, Yes, yes, that’s it!

    That’s exactly how I feel we should be writing.

    I’ve read too many books where the protags were friends throughout the story, then suddenly on the last page, they kiss and become engaged. Like an afterthought.

    Honestly, I don’t think that’s what God wants. I believe God has one person set aside for each of us and for that one person, we’ll feel an overflowing of passion and love that’ll blind us to all others.

    Not to be confused with lust that has no blinders, and pushes love aside.

    I want to write that the hero’s heart thudded when the heroine first smiled at him. Or that she quivered when he ran his fingers down her arm. That’s what God has us feel for the one person he’s made for us. And I want to include His plan in my writing.

    Great blog post.

  • Eric Dabbs

    >Love is a good topic for today. I guess it is about what we love to do. Afterall, I love to write and I’m not getting paid to do it at this point. I can’t imagine the work load of an agent -with so many manuscripts to read- but I can visualize how an agent could find a work they could fall for and get behind it.
    Usually, when I read a really good book, I just have to tell somebody about it.
    Sometimes I just tell my wife, even though she’s not a reader. But I have to tell someone about it because either it had me on the edge of my seat or it struck a cord in some other way.
    And as far as I’m concerned about money, I would like to make enough to pay the bills (and take a family vacation every now and then), so I could be able to do what I love. I imagine most writers fell the same way. Money is just a means to an end so we can live our dreams. I’m sure this includes writers, agents and editors alike.
    You know, I think your blog can be kind of therapeutic to us writers. Its informative and encouraging.
    Finally, I’ve always believed if you want to do the things that most people aren’t able to do, then you have to do the things that most people aren’t willing to do. Note to self: that means me too. Thanks.

  • Chatty Kelly

    >The bible is one hot romance book. It also has intrique, adultry, murder – - all the plot biggies. Guess that is why it continues to stay one the best sellers list year after year.

    Must be the great author…God.

  • Anne L.B.

    >I believe the Holy Spirit is awakening Christ’s bride to this message as the wedding day draws close.

    The best in Christian romance is going to authentically represent both good and bad human romance from a Christian worldview, as well as glorify intimate romance with our divine Bridegroom.

  • Karen Witemeyer

    >Thank you, Gwen. What a concise and true depiction of what Christian Romance is about.

    Desire and belonging.

    I write and read historical romance nearly exclusively (sorry Timothy *grin*) and you are correct about Christian writers doing a good job with building the belonging but having to walk a careful line with the desire aspect. Belonging, to me, is what gives the couple staying power. Those tingly feelings come and go, and even though they are deliciously fun to write about, it is the deeper side of desire that keeps a marriage together. (Speaking as a wife of 16 years and mother of three who knows how difficult it can be to find privacy and energy at the same time.)

    Yet, the nature of romance fiction is to highlight the start of the relationship, where the physical awareness is high and the discovery of the deeper ties of belonging, love, and spiritual connection (I mean this in the literal sense not the metaphysical) is just beginning.

    I will admit to sighing at a story’s first kiss and going sappy over a hero whose carefully banked passion can make a heroine’s knees go weak, but in the end, what makes the book truly satisfying is the characters’ conviction that God has brought them together not just to fulfill their physical attraction for each other, but because when they combine all that they are, they are better than they were as individuals. They are not just two people sharing a life. They have become one flesh, committed to each other and, together, committed to Christ – the cord of three strands that Eccesiastes talks about.

    That is the romance that I want to show the world. Anything less is just a shadow of what was meant to be.

  • Nicole

    >For me, God has called me to show the contrast between the world’s offering of so-called love to that of God’s definition and realization of passion. Because the contrast is required, there are those who don’t know the Lord and who live the lifestyle the world offers. No glorification but no judgment either. When and if some of those characters meet Jesus, they learn the true meaning of relationship, romance, and redemption.

  • christa

    >Thanks Gwen for sharing this.

    My husband and I just celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. [When we married, I was 38, which is an important point of reference for what I’m about to share!]. I still experience tingly feelings when he holds me, and I don’t need translations for certain looks from across the proverbial crowded room. When he looks at me that way, nothing else matters. And if Ken has the capacity to love me that way, I’m not even sure I can wrap my brain around how God looks at me.

    My husband volunteering to wash dishes or driving out of his way to bring home Blue Bell ice cream can be quite sexy because I appreciate the sacrifice of time and the willingness to do something special for someone you love. And when two people have faced life’s challenges together, with consequences both tragic and grand, there’s a profound spiritual, emotional, and physical connection.

    I want couples to know that intimacy doesn’t start in the bedroom; it reveals itself there. And, as a Christian writer, I hope to express through a couple’s desire for one another—after one year, ten years, fifty years—God’s sweet desire for us.

  • sheriboeyink

    >Christa. I love how you put it when you said:
    I want couples to know that intimacy doesn’t start in the bedroom; it reveals itself there.

    That is so true. Me and my hubby of 12 years have done the Song of Solomon and the Love and Respect conferences….they are all reiterating that as well. We need more books out there, for both young and old, that talk about purity, but in a fun and exciting way.

    I’m a YA writer, so I focus more on that age group. It’s just so important when there are so many books and movies illustrating that love starts in the bedroom, THEN, you get to know the person after.

    So, PRESS ON!!

  • Kathleen

    >Beautifully stated! Like I’ve said before, this is why I write.

    The Bible says that the love between a man and woman is a symbol of Christ and the church. If portraying that’s not a call that only Christians can answer, I don’t know what is!

    I’m so glad this is being talked about, that I’m not the only one who sees the terrible lack in this area, and that I’m not the only one who wants to step up to the plate!

  • Catherine Downen

    >Nicely done, Gwen. I totally agree with you. After all, romantic love is part of God’s design for men and women, and he has declared his creation “good.” And thanks, Rachelle, for providing the opportunity for us to read Gwen’s work and become acquainted with her blog: “Singer-Scribe.” Gwen, you have an honest and interesting writer’s voice. Looking forward to reading more of your work.
    Blessings,
    Catherine

  • Timothy Fish

    >Did I hear my name? As Karen mentioned, it is the nature of romance novels to cover the beginning of a relationship. Most are about singles and those that aren’t are usually about a couple that got married before they spent much time together. What a stark contrast this is to the Song of Solomon. It is clearly not the first of the relationship. Most of the women I know wouldn’t appreciate it if a man they didn’t know came up to them and said, “Your breasts are like clusters of grapes.”

    When we start talking about statements like “my beloved is mine, and I am his,” we are talking about a marriage relationship. In short, while God blesses people with both emotional and physical intimacy with their spouses, it falls outside the scope of the romance novel.

  • Kim Kasch

    >I disagree Tim.

    Your analysis sounds like
    Simone de Beauvoir’s statement that marriage kills romance.

    My husband and I have been married for over 25 years and I think our relationship definately falls within the scope of romantic novels. Otherwise, why would we stay together? Romance is essential for any good marriage.

    My husband is a Republican, I’m a Democrat, and that’s just the beginning of our conflicts but we manage to have a lot of spice in all aspects of our lives.

  • Gwen Stewart

    >Timothy,

    The romance novel covers the journey of the romance, not just the beginning of it. Marriage is not outside the scope of the romance novel; indeed it is the point. And as Kim mentioned, the happily-ever-after implies that journey continues long after “I do”.

    As I stated in my blog post, we need to use utmost care in depicting the experience of romance before marriage. But if we do, with prayer, we can tell tales of God’s grace through male-female relationships. I know God gave me Mr. Stewart just when I needed him, and the emotional intimacy I enjoyed with him before marriage saw me through some very difficult times. Even then, he loved me, just like the Song of Songs shepherd called his intended “beloved” before marriage.

    Ain’t romance grand?

  • Gwen Stewart

    >Rachelle,

    Thank you for allowing me to guest post today. You’ve built an amazing community here in a short amount of time. The fact that you would allow an unknown, unpubbed writer like myself to take up space on the blog of a publishing professional speaks volumes.

    Fellow writers:

    Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Your comments helped me gain new insight into this touchy, but important topic for Christian writers.

  • Timothy Fish

    >To be clear, I am not saying that romance cannot be in marriage, but rather marriage cannot be in romance. The exception is a plot device that we might call the premature marriage.

  • Kim Kasch

    >Timothy:

    Huh???

    Sorry, I don’t get it.

  • Anonymous

    >Thank you Kim. I don’t get what timothy fish meant either.

    I think Gwen had some very impressive things to say in her guest blog and I’m happy a friend recently referred me to Ms. Gardner’s blog site.

    Peace and love be with all of you!

  • Victoria Bylin

    >Well said, Gwen! Amen!

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