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 it 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 like Fever Pitch, Serendipity and literally hundreds more teaching 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 and 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?
Day dreaming endlessly about it was fine at first but the troubles this presented me in real life were manifold.
Romance in the Media
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.
But there are no perfect women. Just as there are no perfect men.
I also failed to account for insecurities, both in myself and in others. I didn’t think about how the timing would work. I didn’t think about arguments and disagreements or how my anger can rear its ugly head when I’m in close relationship with others.
All that is to say, my ideas of marriage, and life in general, were programmed into me by fictional storylines.
Movies and music didn’t just influence my thinking about these things; they 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.
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.
Marriage as a covenant
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 to be happy.
I can enjoy the friends I have right now rather than wish I had someone who is more than a friend. I can pursue hobbies like painting, dancing or traveling on my own.
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 I wouldn’t be distracted by a desire for a partner.
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 what I think I’m lacking but rather, focused on the needs of others.
What does the world need?
Who does God’s heart hurt for?
Since deciding not to wait until marriage to begin enjoying my life or serving God freely, 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.
Undoing all of Hollywood’s programming is difficult and takes intentional effort.
How do we combat decades of being programmed to seek out romance? Create new habits.
Pay attention to the things you allow to influence your desires. Are your longings coming from the world or from the Word? Being intentional about our spiritual disciplines is the best way to reorient our desires. They are not simply for the sake of drudgery and punishment; they actually bring us to delight in the Lord more than in romantic pursuits.
Don’t look to romance to fill the voids within you.
And don’t wait until marriage.
A version of this article originally appeared on ethanrenoe.com. Used with permission.