What do romantic comedies, novels and music all have in common?
They change how we view love.
If you’re breathing, you’ve probably watched 27 Dresses, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or The Wedding Planner—to name only three of the countless rom-coms available. Maybe you’ve read all of your mom’s Janette Oke novels and are currently finishing a new one by Francine Rivers. And I can guarantee, no matter what genre of music you enjoy, your radio is ready with love songs 24/7.
We live in a culture inundated by romance. While romance has a place in our lives, a constant diet of it is damaging the dating relationships of young women. Before you fill your mind with more romantic media, take note of the following truths.
Love and Romance Are Not the Same
In the dictionary, romance is the “feeling of excitement or mystery associated with love.” Notice it is associated with love—but it is not love. This is easy to read—but not easy to remember! When we read, watch and listen to romantic storylines, our minds connect being in a relationship with a constant “high” of excitement, joy and passion.
While there IS excitement in a loving relationship, love itself is not constantly exciting and affirming. It is steady, dependable and often quite mundane. Love is proven in these slow moments: It is there that it does its greatest work. When young women confuse love and romance, they are prone to disdain true love when it gets “boring.” Some will overlook wonderful men because they aren’t like the guys for whom they’ve trained their minds to look: fictional characters who don’t exist in real life.
Real Love Is Less Than Perfect
While movies and books depict real-life situations, they aren’t “real life” at all. Every scene is scripted, every set staged and every page orchestrated by the author’s intent. Usually, the ending is exactly what we want. We get the emotional high of witnessing someone else’s love story—rather than being content where God has us.
Real love is not scripted. Yes, there will be some romantic date nights, perfect days of coffee and sunshine, love letters, flowers and everything a girl dreams of in a relationship. These things DO exist. But they are the highlights of a relationship—not the stuff from which it is made.
Real love is less than perfect because real love offsets the sin of a fallen world. Love chooses patience, kindness and forgiveness when nobody else will. In many ways, love is the hardest thing we will ever do. It’s not always pretty. It’s certainly not romantic. But those who make a habit of loving the way Jesus does—not the way romance novels depict it—will be significantly more prepared for a relationship when God sees fit to open that door.
Biblical Love Is Based on Commitment, Not Perfect Circumstances
Romantic media often presents love and sex as mutually inclusive; you can’t be in love without having sex, or the couple won’t know they are in love until after they’ve had it. This is contrary to the biblical definition of love. Everywhere we see the love of God in Scripture, it is founded on commitment. God doesn’t love arbitrarily. When He chooses to love, He commits for life.
Because this is how God defines love, it’s the definition He expects us to use. This love doesn’t change when our circumstances alter. If it’s raining, our outfit is ugly and we’re “failing” at life, God’s love remains. That’s the kind of love He expects from your relationship, too.
This is why attraction isn’t always necessary at the beginning. It’s why the “perfect relationship” doesn’t actually exist—but the perfect love does:
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that… But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. (Luke 6:32-35)
Ultimately, the “love” we see in romantic media is not completely selfless; rather, it presents a version of relationships that are more about how we feel, look and act than what we can give to the other person. And while a rom-com here and there won’t hurt you, the things on which your mind is focused determines the course of your life. Don’t let your heart be guided anything but God’s definition of love.