Hallmark movies and the holidays. Those two topics just go together in my family. My mom and sister know all of the Christmas Hallmark movies by heart and could talk your ear off about each one and which ones are the best. I roll my eyes because in my opinion, the storylines are literally all the same and crazy predictable. And yet, if I happen to be home and they happen to be watching (or re-watching) those cookie-cutter films, I usually sit down to join them. Maybe it’s their company that draws me. Or maybe it’s that really fuzzy blanket in the living room. Or maybe, deep down, I actually like predictability. Maybe I like being able to see the ending coming, knowing that despite whatever calamity befalls a blossoming romance, it just works out and everyone is happy because it’s Christmas and because they’re in love and because the girl decides to move back to her hometown and become a professional ice sculptor instead of using her law degree.
I had some of those Hallmark movie moments this past summer. At one point, I found myself on a first date where a man showed up on my doorstep with my favorite flowers, twirled me around in the middle of the street as the sun was setting, and then took me to dinner at my favorite restaurant. Oh and did I mention he was in his army uniform? Can’t get any more Hallmark than that. However, what followed were a few months of slowly realizing our incompatibility. I’m really grateful I figured it out before getting any closer, but it’s got me wondering about the merits of romance. Should sparks dictate our dating decisions?
In the movie Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is telling Darcy that if a budding romance is only a “vague inclination”, even something as romantic as poetry could “kill it stone dead”. Upon Darcy asking what she would suggest to encourage affection, she replies “dancing, even if one’s partner is barely tolerable.” Relationships not grounded in something more solid than preliminary attraction run the risk of burning out quickly like a match. The timeless wisdom of Elizabeth’s character can speak into our century. A dance implies time, fun, pursuit and working together to accomplish a goal. What if, in the presence OR absence of an initial spark, you choose to join a dance that might lead to romance?
Better question: What if our dating began to reflect what we know about God’s design for His image bearers? That there is depth past our skin into our hearts and encompassing our timeless spirits. That each brand-new tiny human doesn’t just arrive with a blank slate for the world to write on and conform, but that its Creator has already equipped him or her with beautiful propensities and aversions and personalities that, if submitted to the Father’s sovereignty, will play a unique part in a unifying Kingdom Construction Program. Incredible, miraculous, and captivating, isn’t it?
When I shift my gaze from God’s artistry of mankind to today’s dating culture, it makes me cringe a little. Without tethering to our design and purpose, humans are reduced to objects that can be used and traded for upgrades. Our dating decisions become dependent on nothing but shallow, shifting feelings. And yet, our hearts long for permanence. Despairingly, our methods don’t match our aim.
Well, folks, I’m done with sparks. Not only do they blind you to the true character of those you date, but they can be snuffed out as quickly as they started and replaced with regret. Now, you can expect to find me in the coal aisle. Not to fill someone’s Christmas stocking, but to find a love that can be stoked in friendship and maybe later, built up in a sparkly romance. In the meantime, the Gospel offers a healthy dose of permanence that’s not worth trading for anything.