“And the man said: This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken from man. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Let me ask a loaded question: Did you marry your soulmate? Depending on your circumstances, you may have a whole variety of answers to that question. If you’re a newlywed (or a nearly -wed), you are probably going to fire off an immediate, “Absolutely!” in response. If you marriage is really, really good, you might also say yes. If you have experienced the pain of divorce or are in a marriage that is on rocky ground, you may not be quite so quick to agree. Let me change the question up just a bit: Do you even believe in the idea that each one of us has a soulmate? Again, maybe you do, maybe you don’t. It’s hard to deny the popularity of the idea in pop culture. What got me thinking about this today is a Hallmark movie I recently watched with my bride. If there is anywhere the concept of a soulmate is part of the foundation of an organization, it is in Hallmark’s film division. Sometimes, though, things slip through the cracks. Let’s talk about one of those times and what it looks like to have a healthier view of marriage than Hallmark offers.
Hallmark finally got one right. I recently watched one of the new fall Hallmark movies with my lovely bride. They usually only do a couple of these a year, and they are really only placeholders for the Christmas movie bonanza that starts tomorrow night (don’t forget to set your DVR!), but this one was really good. The movie is called Love Strikes Twice. It’s about a couple who are struggling in their marriage. They are disconnected and don’t appear to even like each other very much anymore. The wife, Maggie, makes a wish in a local wishing well that she and her husband, Josh, could have a do-over. After hitting her head on the foundation and adding a dash of Hallmark magic, she wakes up 15 years earlier, a few years before they got married. In other words, she got her wish.
Well, being that it’s Hallmark, their rekindling their love with one another is a foregone conclusion. The question is the same one every Hallmark movie asks: How will they do it? As we have talked about more than once together, Hallmark movies have about the most formulaic plots of any movies in the world. But they have a formula that works and so they stick with it. This time, though, things went in some unexpected directions. The plot wound up being one of the more creative and entertaining ones I’ve seen in a long time. The fact that they were already married and the whole story was about their renewing a love they already had instead of discovering in the span of two weeks that they are soulmates was refreshing. I’m always a fan of renewed and restored marriages. The complicating factor in this one was that 15 years before Maggie hit her head she was actually dating someone else. She was dating someone else rather seriously and it looked like that relationship was on track for marriage. In fact, he actually proposes to her about halfway through the show.
Just before the proposal (about which she never shows any actual excitement which should have been a major tipoff to the guy that it wasn’t ever going to work), she has a conversation with her mom about marriage and choosing the right guy. She was dating her current boyfriend, of course, but she also had feelings for Josh (most notably because she knew she had ended up marrying him, but in her original trip through this timeline she had them as well). In a moment that should have had any regular Hallmark watcher sit up and take notice (it certainly did me), Maggie asked her mom for some advice on how you know when you’ve found “the one.”
The idea of finding “the one” or your “soulmate” is a popular one in our culture. It is a part of nearly every great love story that has ever been told. In particular, it is Hallmark’s bread and butter. Of course her mom was going to say something about the spark you feel or how you just know when you’re with “the one” or something else along these lines. Except then she opens her mouth and that is not what comes out. Coming from out of left field, her mom says she doesn’t really believe in the idea of “the one.”
In response to Maggie’s wide, disbelieving eyes (and those of Hallmark fans all over the place), her mom goes on to tell a story about how when she was dating the man she ultimately married, there were several different guys who could have been “the one” for her. She chose Maggie’s dad, to whom she was still happily married, but she could have chosen someone else and been just as happy. She continues to explain how the idea of there being one right person we are to marry means that if you somehow mess it up and marry the wrong person, you could be stuck in the wrong relationship for the rest of your life. Not only that, but you would mess up everyone else in the process. One wrong decision could wreck a whole world of love. That’s a lot of pressure. Instead of buying into this line of thinking, though, Maggie’s mom shares her view that love is not something you simply fall into. It is a choice you make each and every day.
*Cue the explosion of minds being blown all over the Hallmark world*
This is one Hallmark that got everything right. (Well, there is this one plot line where Maggie and Josh lie and steal to accomplish the subplot objective and it’s treated without any moral condemnation at all, but you can’t be but so picky here.) It got everything right about love and marriage. Love certainly involves our feelings, and the feeling of “falling in love” is a wonderful one to experience, but that’s not what love is first and foremost. First and foremost love is a choice. It is an intentional decision to see someone else become more fully who God created them to be.
When people buy into the notion that marriage is about finding a soulmate, that person with whom you just naturally resonate without even having to try and for whom your passion never cools, then when the more challenging realities of living married life begin to set in, they are set up to fail from the beginning. The truth is marriage is hard. When you get into it, you’re probably not going to get it right all the time. At all. You’ll make mistakes. Your partner will make mistakes. You won’t show your love as consistently as you feel it and you won’t always feel it when it seems like you should. It takes work to get it right. But if we’ll commit to doing it, the rewards for faithfulness to this great task far, far, far outweigh the costs involved in taking it on. It’s not even close.
Now, maybe you married your soulmate. But my guess is that at some point along the way it didn’t feel like it. You may have even been tempted to start looking at someone else as your possible soulmate instead. Rest assured: That other person isn’t. Your feelings are wrong. Don’t trust them. Instead, lean back into the covenant you made, do the hard work of loving one another, and learn to be each other’s soulmate. This won’t be easy, but over time, the good days will far outnumber the hard ones. As you make the daily choice to love, the blessings will swallow up the challenges. You will see each other and sing for joy like Adam did when he first laid eyes on Eve. You will know the sweet intimacy of being one flesh. Whatever it takes to know that, go for it. You’ll be glad you did.