As a 20-year-old, my life revolved around surviving college, working hard to pay bills and finding that perfect somebody to spend the rest of my life with.
There was always some young lady consuming my thoughts. I’d wonder when I’d see her next, what I’d say the next time we met, and I wondered if she ever thought about me as much as I thought about her.
I envisioned myself living out a romantic comedy. The story is always the same. One person is madly in love with another person, but that person doesn’t love him (or her) back or doesn’t even notice him. Having persistence despite blatant rejection, being “way out of their league,” and competing with a more attractive suitor results in mischief and laughter. By the end of the story, though, the persistence pays off. A romantic relationship blossoms and they get married and live happily ever after.
My rom-com wasn’t working out
The leading lady for my romantic comedy kept getting recast. Despite my tenacity, the romantic relationships I pursued won’t working out.
The cast for my romantic comedy kept changing. I changed my character a couple times to complement the leading lady, but that was a disaster. I couldn’t change who I was to attract certain girls, so I nailed down my character and pursued girls that fit the script I imagined.
It was a long and exhausting process. My fragile heart was taking a beating. Just as soon as I grew attached to someone — rewriting the script for how she could play a leading role in my life’s story — she’d leave, and I’d have to recast the part, starting from scratch.
Happy endings for everyone!
Admit it, you’ve wished real life were more like a romantic comedy. You’ve imagined playful antics and coffee shop conversations that would eventually endear your crush to marry you.
I love romantic comedies because everything works out in the end — the main character keeps trying and eventually finds or wins over his (or her) soul mate. But to expect your life to pan out like fiction can make for a bumpy ride.
For example, ever notice that — despite being a terrible person or a complete klutz — everything works out for the main character in romantic comedies? It’s almost as if someone wrote these stories with the happy ending planned from the start.
Real life isn’t like this though. And I know that goes without saying, but sometimes we don’t behave in a way that acknowledges this.
Romantic relationships don’t always work out. People who seem made for each other don’t always end up married. Single men and women with amazing marriage potential sometimes remain single their entire lives.
That’s because God scripts and writes reality differently than we write fiction. He works all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), but His definition for a good ending is out of this world — it’s being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Are you thinking about that happy ending?
Great expectations vs. healthy desires
When you’re living life like it’s a romantic comedy, your desires are typically OK, but your expectations are all out of whack.
The desire for marriage and a relationship with the love of your life isn’t wrong. As God’s image bearers, we long for loving relationships (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18). We don’t want to be alone (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). We want to share Adam’s experience of discovering “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23) through the union of marriage.
What’s more, Christ’s love for the church is profoundly represented in the institution of marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33). We all desire to experience and unravel that mystery by becoming one with our spouses one day.
It’s OK to want marriage. But romantic comedies teach us to expect marriage. And Paul says marriage isn’t the default setting for every man or woman (1 Corinthians 7:7-9). God has incorporated marriage into some people’s stories and left it out of others’.
If you expect to receive marriage as your happy ending, you can easily make an idol of it.
Rather than being content and thankful for God’s steadfast love (1 Chronicles 16:34), you grumble because you expect something God never promised.
At its worst, you worship marriage as the redemption your life is missing rather than looking to Christ’s death on the cross to redeem you from far more than singleness.
Like most idolatry, making marriage and relationships an idol starts by desiring a good thing. Because desiring marriage is a good thing. But start to desire it too much — more than God — and it becomes an idol in the blink of an eye. Idolatry sneaks up on you that way.
So, if you’re worried that you’ve made an idol out of marriage and romantic relationships, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I desire marriage, or do I expect marriage?
- Am I striving after something that is good, or am I expecting something I think I deserve?
- If God’s plan for my life doesn’t include marriage, can I remain content and glorify Him as a single person?
- Will marriage fulfill a deeper meaning and purpose to my life that’s missing?
As you answer these questions, pray for discernment. Your heart isn’t always forthcoming (Jeremiah 17:9-10), so ask God to search your heart and reveal any idols hiding there.
Life isn’t like a romantic comedy. No matter how persistent you are, God may have other plans for your life. While the desire for marriage is good, it’s bad to expect it as a certainty.
Thankfully, God does promise a happy ending for those who love Him, and that ending is far better than any relationship we could ever imagine.
Copyright 2018 Matt Stickel. All rights reserved.