About a year ago, I gave one of the most ironic messages of my life to an audience of mostly teens and young adults just outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. In that message  I sang the chorus of one of the most popular songs among the students a capella and then contrasted the view of love found in most pop music with that of the Bible, found in the Song of Solomon, which is one of a few books of the Bible (Ruth is another) that are particularly loving in nature. The irony I would like to discuss is that I felt rather awkward (and still feel rather awkward) about giving a timely message concerning romantic love being a single young man who has earned a (well-deserved) reputation for being an awkward and shyly amorous sort of fellow.
And, given that the Song of Solomon speaks frequently about not stirring up love before its proper time, few lives could be as poignant reminders of the need to keep that directive in mind as my own. In my case, love was stirred up rather early, and not entirely by my own doing. Without going into all of the gory details, I had more experience (if you can call it that) with physical intimacy in the first three years of my life than I have had since then. As far as my own responsibility is concerned, the first time I remember romantic love being stirred up for me in a powerful way was when I was a lad of about ten years old, and I saw a particularly lovely girl (age 9) who was serving as the flower girl at a wedding in my congregation. As I reflect on the awkwardness of those years of shy courtship of my first love, if you will, I reflect on how little has changed in me despite the long intervening years. In many ways, I am still far closer to the painfully honest, genuinely passionate, but terribly timid young man of those age than to the confident charmer that others might tend to assume me to be.
A great part of the miseducation of my youth concerns the aspect of romance. If one examines the music I am most fond of listening to and writing, one will find a great deal of sincere romantic songs, and that has been the case since childhood spent listening to the classic rock and adult contemporary songs of which my family was most fond. Having fed myself on such music for many years, it was not a surprise that my own writings have been so strongly influenced by not only my traumatic life but also by the romantic longings inspired by songs and movies and those few novels I have appreciated, most of which deal with love and war (if not both). As the circumstances of my life drew me to a study of warfare and conflict simply because it was an inescapable part of my existence, so my naturally sensitive and expressive personality was drawn to the more gentle study of romance, even if I have not been a successful practioner of those arts.
There is a proverb, from my favorite section of the Proverbs  that deals with my own approach to love, in Proverbs 30:18-19: “There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand: the way of the eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on the rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a virgin.” Indeed, those are all subjects of interest to me, and not things I understand very well even now, though I imagine that at least among those who recognize the origin of my quirkiness in awkwardness and not malice must find my ways to be at least a bit humorous to watch. I have fed on the food of romantic love–not least from the gallantry of a Boaz and the Beloved in the Bible–and I am what I am. If I am ill-suited for the cynical manipulation of hearts, at the very least I hope that eventually I may be sufficiently well understood to at least develop enough skill to make someone else feel comfortable and to feel comfortable myself, and that will get rid of a lot of the awkwardness in time. Until then, I suppose I will just have to deal with it and find such humor and insight as I can in my ironic conditions.