By Ethan Renoe
I remember being in 6th grade and watching some cheesy family movie where the princess fell in love with some peasant shlub and they lived happily ever after. I remember the film stirring up longings within me for that same kind of whimsical romance. I wanted a beautiful and innocent mademoiselle to fall helplessly into my arms after I had heroically come to her rescue, whatever form that took.
Over the years, Hollywood continued to program my desires. I remember movies (tacky as they were) like Fever Pitch, Serendipity, and literally hundreds more which taught me that all my problems would be solved once I met the right girl, fell head over heels in love, hit a rough patch where we didn’t talk for a minute, then came rushing back together to live indefinitely in a state of heavenly bliss.
Yes, once that happened I would be good.
So I eagerly waited. I knew in the depths of my being that one glorious day, God would orchestrate a meet cute, and I only wondered when and where. Would she walk in the door of a coffee shop with an adorable lost expression on her face, or would she happen to sit next to me on the airplane? The options were endless.
But the troubles this presented me were manifold.
For starters, the romance film industry programmed me to believe there is one perfect woman out there for me, and all I have to do is meet her. According to the criterion plot line, we have everything in common and enjoy the same hobbies. (Of course, there are the cute discrepancies which cause cute little arguments, but those can be overlooked.)
But there are no perfect women. And I am as far from a perfect man as you can get before you start getting into the “Murderous Dictator & Collegiate Rapist” categories.
I also failed to account for insecurities arising, both in myself and in others. I overlooked more base factors such as farts, B.O., and faint moustache hairs. I didn’t think about how the timing is usually bad, and she’s going home for the summer. I didn’t think about arguments and disagreements, and how my anger can boil over.
All that is to say, my ideas of marriage, and life in general, were programmed into me by the media. The media did not simply influence my thinking about these things; it literally reprogrammed me.
I’m going to repeat that once more just to be clear: The things we allow into our minds rearrange our desires, and even create new ones that were not there before.
I’ve been reading a book lately called You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith, and it is reshaping the way I think. It is mind-boggling. Buy it. Smith explores our desires, and what shapes them, and I have been able to identify certain desires in my life that have been programmed into me, with an idyllic image of marriage being at the top of the list.
Marriage became something I looked forward to, to the degree that I couldn’t be happy until there was a woman in my life.
And apparently, I was not the only one to buy into this. Look at the number of people on Tinder, eHarmony and the like. The dating industry rakes in over $1.4 billion a year. A lot of us seem to feel lonely, and think a relationship (even a one-night relationship) will fill in the gaps.
There is no place in the Bible that points to marriage as the source of our satisfaction and fulfillment, yet we Christians are terribly guilty of elevating marriage to a source of satisfaction.
A friend once told me, “If you’re not happy as a single person, you won’t be happy as a married person.” Marriage was not invented as a means of solving all your personal issues. If anything, it will likely bring to light more issues that lie dormant beneath the surface.
Marriage is a reflection of the gospel; of God’s relationship to His people. It is a covenant. It is living in a perpetual state of forgiveness. It is not a happily-ever-after utopia where all your problems are vanquished.
Recently, however, I decided that I don’t want to wait until marriage…(long pause)…to be happy.
I can enjoy the friends I have right now rather than wish I had someone more than a friend. I can buy a house by myself. I can pursue hobbies like painting, dancing or snake charming on my own. (Insert cheesy inspirational line about how doing the things you love will lead you to ‘The One’ you’re supposed to be with. Then stop and think about how even that sentiment reflects how deeply you have been programmed to see marriage as the ultimate destination.)
I’m attempting to undo years of programming and enjoy the present moment, single as I am. I go on runs and stop to talk to people. I bike really fast and simply enjoy the adrenaline rush, rather than trying to impress anyone. I got off social media so as to not stalk countless women to determine if they are The One (My friend runs it all for me now, for those of you who were wondering).
More so, I am working on enjoying God, and my times of quietness with Him. My prayers are no longer a begging-session of me complaining about my celibacy (I’ve reduced that to about 50% of my prayers now), But I can zoom out and focus on others. What does the world need? Who does God’s heart hurt for?
Since deciding not to wait until marriage, life is more enjoyable. It’s almost like experiencing freedom from a big weight that always loomed overhead. The pressure is off. And if it happens, it will happen in God’s time, so I can relax.
I hope the rest of you single people experience this same degree of freedom.
Don’t look to romance to fill the voids within you.
Don’t wait till marriage.
I bet you thought this was about sex, didn’t you? Sickos.
About the Author: Ethan is a speaker, writer, and photographer currently living in Los Angeles. He has lived on 6 continents, gone to 6 schools, had 28 jobs, and done 4 one-armed pull-ups. He recently graduated from Moody Bible Institute. Follow him at ethanrenoe.com or check him out on Facebook.