Part 2 of an interview with Rhonda Stoppe,
author of Real-Life Romance
Rhonda Stoppe warns Christians not to let the world define romance but to examine how God is at work in the hearts of His people — knitting together hearts in a love that forever endures. In her new book, Real-Life Romance: Inspiring Stories to Help You Believe in True Love (Harvest House), each chapter tells a real-life account of how God brought together two hearts and intertwined them so completely that their love stands firm regardless of the trials of life. Readers will see how from the highest heights to the depths of sorrow true love shines brightly. They will also discover how God’s plan is for couples to love each other so deeply with His love that their marriage is a light to draw others to know Him.
Stoppe wrote Real-Life Romance with the desire to meet readers, whether the readers are married, divorced, widowed or single, where they are and fill them with hope and inspiration, not only for their own happily-ever-after, but for generations to come.
Visit Rhonda Stoppe’s website (www.NoRegretsWoman.com) for additional special features,
including photos of the couples and video clips of the couples from the book.
Q: It’s important to point out that Real-Life Romance is not a marriage advice book. Who did you write the book for and what was your intent?
Exactly! Real-Life Romance is not a marriage self-help book. Since there are many great marriage advice books on the market, I wanted to write a book that was a breath of fresh air. We are all drawn to a good love story. Look at the movies and romance novel industry. People are riveted as they follow the story of a couple who ends up falling in love and living happily ever after.
However, those love stories don’t always honor Christ. As believers, we tolerate when the couple in the story is involved in intimacy outside of marriage because we really want to see the ending where they fall happily in love. I wrote Real-Life Romance to share love stories that are testimonies of God’s faithfulness of drawing two people together to fall in love in a Christ-honoring way.
At first I thought I was writing this book for married people — to inspire them to rekindle the passion in their own relationship as they recall God’s providence in their own love story. As I wrote, however, it became apparent this book is also for single people (from teens to adults) who not only love a good love story but are also waiting for God to guide them to their own happily-ever-after.
God is the author of true romance. He is the one who saw it was “not good for Adam to be alone.” Think about it for a moment. Here was Adam, the perfect man, walking in ideal unison with his Creator, yet God made Adam to need a mate and graciously provided him with Eve.
In the same way, God calls us to live in relationship with Him through Christ. He also recognizes our frailty and provides us with a spouse not only to cherish and adore but to help us run the race He has set before us. Christ-honoring, selfless love in marriage is the beautiful picture of Jesus’ love for the church.
Q: How do you and Steve keep the romance alive after 30-plus years?
Through the years of raising toddlers and teens, Steve and I made it a point to choose each other over any other earthly relationship. Our kids always knew our love for one another was steadfast and that they were not able to come between us, no matter what. In 30 years of ministry we have watched marriages crumble when a parent regularly sides with a child in disagreements against his or her spouse. We’ve observed weary parents of terrible two-year-olds turn on one another by reacting to their spouses in a disrespectful and unloving manner.
One of the perks of ministry is getting a bird’s-eye view of the damage that can be done to a marriage if a couple refuses to love each other with Christ’s selfless love. We’ve also had the honor of watching others love each other deeply the way God intended. Throughout the years we have been mentored by many married couples who showed us how to romance each other through the different seasons of life. These days, we are now learning from those same mentoring couples how to grieve when their spouses go home to Jesus. As they grieve with hope, we too know one day Christ will grant us His strength should He call one of us home before the other.
For Steve and me, real romance says, “I choose you, no matter what, when or where we find ourselves in life. It is you and you alone whom I adore.”
Q: What encouragement do you offer those who feel they have already lost their chance at love or don’t deserve to find love?
I often meet people who believe they’ve lost their chance or don’t deserve to find love. Maybe they have been loved poorly by a parent or rejected by someone who promised to love them forever. The point of your need is not that you find a person who won’t hurt you; rather, your deepest need is to learn how deeply God loves you and will never forsake you.
I think of the Samaritan woman in the Bible. She had been loved badly. We don’t know the details of her story, but we do know she had a number of husbands and was even living with a man who wasn’t her husband when Jesus went out of His way to find her at the well.
I love teaching the message of the Samaritan woman because many can relate to her story, but the highlight of this account in Scripture is that Jesus found her at the point of her need. Even though He knew the intimate details of her sordid past, Jesus valued her and offered her “Living Water.” The thing that stood out most to her was, “He told me everything I have done!” That is what she proclaimed as she ran back to the village to call others to come and meet Messiah!
Her story offers so much hope because God never gives up on anyone. He is concerned about you and wants you to know His love for you is not based upon your performance but simply upon His own choice to love you with an everlasting love. When you devote yourself to learning from Scripture all you can about how much Jesus loves you and ask God to show you how to love Him with all of your being (see Mark 12), then you won’t be tempted to find your worth in finding a person to fall in love with you. Rather you will be able to rest in knowing God’s love for you is what makes you valuable. When you learn to trust God in this way, you can rest in whatever His plan might be for your love life. This trust will give you courage to wait on His timing and providence for your future.
There are 25 stories in Real-Life Romance, and in some ways each is my favorite. At the end of the book I got to share the love stories of all four of our adult children. I think these would have to be my absolute favorites. Every parent hopes his or her children will find someone who loves them deeply and for a lifetime.
From the day each of our kids came into our family, Steve and I prayed diligently that God would bring to each one a spouse who would love Jesus more than he or she loved our child. We know that loving God with all of your being is the only way His perfect love can spill out of one’s life onto a spouse. God graciously answered this prayer for each of our children. These days we pray the same prayer for our grandchildren.
Q: You close the book with a shorter story about finding a mate to help you run the race. Could you share that illustration?
When our son Tony was in the ROTC at Texas A&M University, he was the head of his unit. One woman under his command had a hard time keeping up with the men when they ran a great distance. When they arrived at their destination without her, they were chastised and required to do push-ups until she arrived. As commander, Tony needed to be sure she kept up the pace with the rest of the unit, so he ran in back alongside her. With both of their eyes focused on their destination, Tony would place his hand in the small of her back, and she would keep up the pace. When he removed his hand, she lagged behind.
I tell this story to show a wonderful word picture. The Bible says that as Christ followers we’re running a race He has set before us. He calls us to keep our eyes fixed on Him, the author and finisher of our faith, and to shake off whatever easily besets us in our pursuit to finish well.
When looking for a mate, it’s tempting to take your eyes off the prize of Christ and focus on who might be “the one.” Let’s follow the example of the woman in Tony’s unit. If you run this race of life with your focus on the One who calls you to run, and one day you look over and see a man whose eyes are fixed on Jesus and who places his hand on the small of your back to help you run your race — marry him! (If you're a man, and you one day find your hand on the small of a woman’s back, the back of a woman who runs with you, you might want to consider marrying her.)