I recently attended a film festival at Union University featuring the work of students. One of the first films shown was a thirty minute story about a young couple.
The plot was simple and touching. A young man expresses his romantic interest in a waitress at a diner. They fall in love and marry to the disapproval of her parents, who don’t think much of the young fellow. After a brief period of happiness, the two lose their jobs and fall upon hard times. Indeed, they become homeless and are forced to live in a tent and steal baths in the swimming pool of a local apartment complex.
I won’t give away the ending, which was nicely done and brought about a big, appreciative response from the audience. Instead, I want to focus on the main idea presented in the story. The primary thought expressed throughout is that even if a young person has nothing else, it is enough to have the sincere love of a husband or wife. You can be homeless and desperate. You can be almost without food or access to taken for granted resources like bathrooms and showers. But if you have committed, romantic love, then you have everything you need.
I am certain that this thought, put over in a very charming and inspiring way is what caused the students to cheer as they did. The film deserved their applause. It demonstrated talent and imagination. It did what films are supposed to do which is to inspire us and make us think.
But despite my admiration, I disagree with the message as nicely as I possibly can. Thinking in the way the film suggests is right and ideal strikes me as a recipe for unhappiness. Marriage is beautiful. Romance is one of the most delightful experiences in life. Commitment is a rock in life which makes many great things possible. But marriage, portrayed in the film as the ultimate in romantic love which abides no matter the challenges, is not enough. The line from Jerry Maguire (“You complete me.”) is not true.
My wife complements me almost as much as it is possible for another person to do so. She is scheduled and organized. I am not. She is scientific and quantitative. I am in love with the arts and humanities. When we married I was a fairly new Christian. She had been a committed believer for many years. She plans activities for the children. I am more fun and spontaneous. I could add more examples. The most notable, of course, is that she is female while I am male. She is the other with whom I am designed to make a pairing. But she does not complete me. She cannot be the sufficient reason for my happiness or my soul satisfaction. To put that responsibility upon her would be intolerable and unfair. She cannot do it, no matter how wonderful I think she is (and I do).
The kind of fulfillment and completion suggested by the student film is not truly possible with another person. The only way to find it, I believe, is through a relationship with God. Only God holds the possibility of true fulfillment and completion. He has given me a purpose in life and an eternal destiny. He is my only hope for knowing the deep truth beneath all things. I love Ruth. I only love her more now than I ever did before. But I recognize that I only have her because of Him. And the things she can never give me, He can.
The feeling almost all of us know so well, the feeling of complete romantic and psycho-sexual immersion in a person of the opposite sex is a type of spell or chemical haze. Our hormones take legitimate feelings of love, attraction, and appreciation and turn them into an all-consuming obsession for the other person. College students are probably more apt to feel that than almost any other age group. But the chemical haze eventually disappears and the view ahead becomes clear once more. And if we are looking in the right direction, there He is, looking back at us . . . offering our soul’s true and rightful desire, greater (amazingly perhaps) than even the love of our natural other.