A few weeks ago, some friends of mine came over to make Christmas goodies. Between decorating sugar cookies and melting chocolate for turtles, one of my friends mentioned that she appreciated these articles. “Thanks,” I told her. “It’s a subject that I felt God really wanted me to write about. The next article in the series is a bear, though. It’s about ways to make singleness worse. You know, more painful and less fulfilling. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in that area and I know many others have, too. But I’m having trouble putting it to words. It’s why I haven’t posted in a while.”
She nodded. “Then I’ll be praying that God gives you the right words to say.” So, here’s to Elli. Thanks for providing some much-needed spiritual backing to help me get this article (and the one I posted last Friday) online!
- Read romance novels and watch romantic films. The most common way I know of to make singleness worse is to watch a chick flick or read a Harlequin romance. If you’re like most girls (or one of those not-so-uncommon guys), you enjoy a good romantic comedy now and again. Know why? It’s because of that wonderful, warm, fluffy buzz that it leaves you. Like you could fly… or have the “courage” to kiss your crush next time you see him.
So, what’s the problem with euphoria? Well, it’s just an emotional high that temporarily fills the boyfriend-sized hole in your life and leaves you with false ideas of what true love looks like. However, there’s another reaction you could have to a romantic comedy—it reminds you of everything you don’t have and plunges you into that black hole of discontentment. After all, the boy and the girl had each other by the end of the story. But you… hmm. Maybe we should leave that one alone.
The problem with emotional highs (and lows) is that God desires the Christian life to be free to “run the course of [God’s] commandments” without anything that could “so easily ensnares us”. We are called to set God first in our lives, which means we set nothing above Him in any way.
Are romantic comedies a form of idolatry then? Perhaps. But I would have an easier time believing that it’s gluttony. Contrary to popular belief, gluttony is not necessarily connected with going to the buffet line for the fourth time. It has everything to do with filling holes in your life with not-God things: allowing personal desires enslave you until fulfilling God’s call on your life becomes less important than fulfilling your wants. (for more on this, check out C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, chapter 17).
So getting back to the main point, the best way to answer the romantic comedy desire is to find new forms of entertainment, like books and movies that don’t have romance (or at least keeps it as a subplot). Next time your friends come over to do something fun, play a board game instead of watching a movie. But what if all your friends want to watch 13 Going on 30? Simple: just quietly and graciously excuse yourself when steamy scenes affect you emotionally and find some other distraction. After all, just because your friends want to watch a chick flick doesn’t mean that your spirit has to bear the consequence.
- Grab the first (or the next) person that comes along. He likes you. You know it. Everyone knows it. He’s a nice and cute, attends church, and your heart is starting to flutter a bit when you see him. Granted, he has a few quirks (okay, okay, there are red flags. Large, waving, and crimson as blood), but no one’s perfect right? Besides, what if no one else expresses interest… ever? Do you really want to be known as a prude? Certainly being married to someone is better than being single the rest of your life… right?
WRONG! Nor am I just saying this because I’m trying to make excuses for my singleness. I’ve spoken to people who went into marriage with the attitude of “the way I feel about him is more important than our lack of compatibility.” They often end up viewing their marriage as the biggest regret of their life. Any of them would say that getting married for the wrong reasons never pays off. Ever. Many get divorced. The rest have lackluster marriages, void of the blessedness and joy that should characterize the relationship between husband and wife. My mom has this quote by H. Jackson Brown hanging by her computer: “Choose your life’s mate carefully. From this one decision will come ninety percent of all your happiness or misery.” Know what you’re looking for in a spouse and do not settle. Ninety percent is too high a percentile to squander on an inferior relationship.
- Decide that if you have feelings that won’t go away, he must be the one. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told, “I prayed that if he’s not the one, that God would just take away my feelings for him. But I still like him! It must be a sign.”
If only it were that easy. See, in the Bible, the signs that God gives are nearly or absolutely impossible to achieve by human standards (unlike feelings sticking around, which–speaking from experience–are so easy to maintain). Think about Gideon. God actually gave him multiple signs that the call on his life was real (Gideon’s sacrifice miraculously caught fire in Judges 6:17-21, then the whole thing with the fleeces in verses 36-40, and then the Lord let Gideon hear about a Midianite soldier’s dream in 7:13-14). Nor is this an unique case. Throughout Scripture, when God tells His servants something specific, it is accompanied by signs and collaboration from independent witnesses.
Question: how does that translate to your crush?
Answer: Remember that human emotions are supposed to be the caboose. Not the engine.
I like listening to sermons. The last few months, I have been enthralled with Dr. Phil Kaiser’s (of Dominion Covenant Presbyterian Church) series about Revelation. In his sermon, Can First Love Be Regained? He puts it this way:
I was told to transform my mind with the means of grace, and that my mind and spirit were the engine of the train. The will was the next car back, the coal cabin.
And the caboose was the emotions. If you get the train engine going, and the
will determinedly keeps stocking the furnace with coal, will the emotions
follow along? Of course they will – they are the caboose. And I will hasten to
say that the caboose is not the only component of love. The whole train is
that love. The whole train of mind, will, and emotions is that agape love. It is
a self-sacrificial love that runs the train even when it is tired; even when it
doesn’t feel like it. That’s true love. And it is a blessing that the caboose of
emotions tags along, but it tags along because of the first deeds. The first
deeds are the stoking of the fire of the steam engine of the train. And a
healthy love has mind, will, and emotions engaged. It has the engine, the
coal car, and the caboose.
Although Dr. Kaiser was speaking about the Christian’s relationship with Jesus, I think the concept applies here. (After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be an allegory of Christ’s relationship with the Church?)
As I was writing this article, my sister pointed out that the real issue behind the question about your crush is discovering the will of God. So the real question should be, how do we discover that? I can’t pretend to be an expert. Discovering God’s will is such an incredible part of the Christian life that sermons and books have been written about it. I can claim neither the wisdom or the knowledge to direct others. But in my meager experience, I’ve found that when I give myself over to transforming “my mind with the means of grace,” as Dr. Kaiser put it, God reveals His will in His own way and time.
So what should we do with those overwhelming feelings and desires? The hardest thing possible. Conquer them. Take every thought captive and surrender each to the dominion of Christ. This leads to stronger faith and obedience, which is better by far and the best protection possible against the common pitfalls of singleness.