“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
The recipe for a good romantic comedy is that two people fall in love. But then what? Used to be, the “then what” was a hint that they were going to get married. Used to be, though, isn’t all that common anymore. Nowadays, the love stories end with a kiss and a promise of…well…love. But is that enough?
I recently watched a new Netflix wannabe Hallmark movie called Falling Inn Love. It was pretty much a cookie cutter copy of a Hallmark special but with a progressive flare to define themselves as modern and woke over and against the more traditional values that define it.
The movie itself was just as cute as any Hallmark entry. A woman from San Francisco loses her job and breaks up with her boyfriend because he just won’t commit to her after two and a half years together (the commitment of love she wants is for them to move in together) all in the same week. At the same time, she enters a contest to win an inn in New Zealand on an intoxicated whim (again, this is Netflix, not Hallmark). The next morning as she struggles to remember exactly what she did the previous night, she discovers that she won.
When she arrives in a small town in New Zealand, she discovers that the quaint, beautiful inn from the pictures is really a dilapidated junk heap. Once she gets over hating the local hunky handyman, she accepts his offer to help with the renovations, and the two eventually fall in love, Hallmark-style.
Again, the movie was cute. It was well done. It was filmed in New Zealand, which has every kind of scenic vista you can imagine and all of them are stunningly beautiful. The characters all had good chemistry together. It was good.
But then it gets to the end, and the guy and the girl finally confess their love for one another (much more awkwardly than I would have expected) and she says that she is finally getting her fairly tale ending. And that fairy tale ending is…for them to live in the inn together and run it as partners.
I’ve got to confess, as much as I enjoyed the rest of the movie, the ending left me feeling unfulfilled. They were going to move in together and that’s it?!? Didn’t she kick the other guy (who did a great job playing a character who was the life of any party, but thoroughly unlikable as a friend or boyfriend) to the curb because he wouldn’t make a real commitment to her? And now she’s going to be okay with just living with this other guy? What if he decided later to move out? Then she’s back where she started, but now in a different country and without any kind of support system (although she didn’t seem to have one back in San Francisco). Living together doesn’t really seem like enough of a commitment.
Ah, but you see, for the modern, progressive culture that Netflix is trying to channel it is enough. Or at least that’s what we’re told.
That may be how things are, but that’s not how they were designed to be. What God designed us for in the beginning was not living together, but marriage. When the first man saw the first woman for the first time he broke out in a song of praise and amazement. He was absolutely enraptured by her. This is why, Moses went on to explain, a man leaves his father and mother (there was no failure to launch imagined in the beginning) and bonds with his wife.
Now marriage isn’t the call for everyone. Some are called to a celibate singleness. That is a legitimate, God-honoring, and fulfilling call for those who receive it (notice, I didn’t say easy), but it’s not for everybody. And for those who don’t receive that particular call, the only other call we receive is to marriage. Being in any kind of a relationship without marriage isn’t an option.
But again, that’s not where the culture is right now. At all. In fact, marriage rates have fallen to all-time lows. Even Hallmark movies which used to always end with a ring are more likely to end with merely a kiss. More people are living together without getting married than ever before. And the thing is, they don’t even think they are settling. Most of these folks have been trained to believe they don’t even want marriage for themselves.
But here’s the thing: It’s not only the Scriptures that raise the flag on this behavior. Modern social science finds again and again that cohabitation is bad for everybody. It’s bad for the individuals who choose it. They tend to report lower levels of happiness and satisfaction with not just their relationships, but with their lives, than married people. It’s bad for any kids who come into the world in such a situation. Kids in non-married households tend to do worse on every level than kids in married households. It’s bad for society at large. Marriage is a stabilizing institution for whole societies because of the social problems that come out of non-married situations.
As a matter of fact—and this is most interesting to me—the wealthy, progressive culture that tends to be the loudest in preaching about how passé marriage is, also tends to be the segment of the culture that practices something close to Biblical marriage at the highest percentage of any group. This is actually part of the secret to their success (the tried and true recipe for a successful life is to get an education, get married, and have a family in that order), and if they would preach what they practice (conservative, evangelical culture, on the other hand, needs to do a better job practicing what we preach) the whole culture would be better for it.
Now, this doesn’t mean that marriage is easier at all. Cohabitation is easier precisely because there’s no real commitment there. When things get tough, you can just bail and there really aren’t any significant strings attached. Emotional strings, sure, but part of the point of cohabitation is to keep those emotional strings thin. But easier does not mean better, and that goes double here.
So, if you want a life of success and happiness, unless you have been called to a life of celibate singleness (with the emphasis on the word celibate there), then look out for marriage and happily receive it when it comes. Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t let your friends and children settle for anything less either. Don’t follow the trend. Go for what is good. You’ll be glad you did.