Guess what??? It's cheesy Christmas movie season again! Who doesn't love the classic guy meets girl in some random way with snow falling, hot chocolate, and Christmas carols? There's always some drama, but we know that everything will end happily. If it didn't, we probably wouldn't be back next year, right?
Well, this past week I had the unfortunate experience of being sick with the flu and stuck at home...which gave me plenty of time to get in a few good Christmas movies. I am not usually a movie watcher, but if it is a cute story and not scary, then I'm easy prey. Yet, a person normally does not need to think very deeply to follow the story line, and I have found myself later contemplating some deeper thoughts about our motivations behind our love of a good "happily ever after." The following are some observations I made, and though I don't condemn watching Christmas movies, I do urge you to think critically while you are watching them this holiday season.
1) I think the reason we like them is because we know everything will turn out alright. I mean, it does get a little boring after a while, but we feel satisfied because the simple plot played out in front of our eyes. The man and woman met, loved, fought, loved, overcame obstacles, and sometimes even married in the span of two hours! Hollywood makes love look so easy. But here's the hard truth: love is not always easy. We live in a sinful world, and I think one of the reasons that we like Christmas movies and romantic movies in general is because we can momentarily forget that we live in a broken world and enjoy a fantasy world that has been perfectly crafted to fit our desires. In real life, things happen. People have disagreements, there are financial burdens, sickness, the stress of a job or kids, accidents, and sometimes it is downright hard to love. When we watch these movies, we are made to believe that love is a feeling rather than a lifestyle. True love is a commitment to creating "happily ever after" with another person through the strength of God no matter what situations arise in our lives. This is one reason why true "love at first sight" is rare because the fluttery feeling the characters get when they lock eyes is not the end all be all of love. It is definitely chemistry, but last I checked chemistry alone doesn't pay bills or teach children. While chemistry can indeed be a special part of a relationship and should be, the Bible also says that "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). We need to take our desires to God, and ask for His guidance.
2) The second issue is that getting into a relationship or getting marriage is almost always the goal. How many good Christmas movies have you seen where the main characters remain flourishing happy singles and are promoted as such? The whole point is usually to have a guy meet a girl either as the main storyline or a subsequent part of the storyline, and to be honest, that's probably why everyone is watching for anyway. What's the issue with this? Isn't marriage important? Yes, but here's the second hard truth: Singleness is just as important as marriage. It's true! If you do not put intentional effort into your singleness, how do you expect to succeed in your marriage? You can make a huge impact on the world as a single, and you can be a little more flexible to go where God calls you than when you have a spouse and maybe kids too. While marriage is definitely a beautiful gift and institution from God, let's not forget that He has plenty to offer in the single package too! One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says "He [God] has made everything beautiful in it's time." God has a plan for each of our lives, and you can rest assured that He is working our a beautiful plan in His time. If marriage is your desire, that is wonderful. Use your singleness to prepare for that desire to be fulfilled. Pray and ask God to help you lean into this season and keep your standards high. It's easy to get sidetracked or tired of waiting during the holidays when it seems like everyone is getting engaged or married, but remember that God makes EVERYTHING beautiful in His time! Singleness can be of great value to you if you are willing to put in the time and effort.
3) The third observation I made is that these movies portray true romance as very physical. There is a lot of hugging, hand holding, sometimes more stuff that we won't mention, and then usually a kiss somewhere along the way...and definitely a big one at the end. While physical touch is an important part of love, it can very quickly be thrown to the foreground of these movies. I think it is important for us to watch with a critical discerning eye and decide whether the patterns we notice are helpful or not in real life. How well do they work off the big screen? Physical boundaries are a key conversation for new couples (and even more mature couples) to have, and the progression of real life is certainly not the same as a two hour movie. So here's the third hard truth: Physical intimacy is not the only key to a happy relationship. It can play a part, but physical intimacy alone should not be the only reason you are with someone long term. Galatians 5:13 says, "For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love." Our interactions need to show our level of love for Christ via our commitment to serve the other person. One great way to serve them from a place of love is to set good physical boundaries and communicate them openly.
Finally, have you ever noticed that when you watch romantic movies, all of a sudden you start to spend more time thinking about the romance or lack thereof in your own life? Maybe this does not happen for anyone but me, but often I find that if I watch these types of movies, I start to fantasize about the "prospects" in my life. If we are going to spend time in these fake worlds and then expect ourselves not to fall prey to those thoughts in real life....we're crazy. Again, I do not think that a few indulgences into the world of "happily ever after" are going to hurt us, but I do think it is of the utmost importance to take a discerning mind and thoughtful attitude with us as we watch. Romans 12:2 puts it best: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." When we are using the brain the God gave us to watch something through a Christian and wise lens, then hopefully we will be able to test it and decide whether or not it fits the truth God has spoken into our lives through His word.
Alissa Tanguay is the host of Carved to Beautify, and she enjoys drawing spiritual lessons from common life.