Monday, September 14, 2009

(500) Days of Summer

My wife and I went to see (500) Days of Summer the other day. It's a romantic comedy about the up-and- down relationship between two 20-somethings named Tom (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel).

Some things I liked about the movie:
  • The development of Tom and Summer's relationship was done in a really creative way.
  • The acting was good.
  • There were some pretty funny scenes.
  • You learn the value of friendship, love, and honesty.
  • OK, Zooey is really pretty.

But here's what I didn't like: Tom and Summer toy with each other's emotions and sexuality outside of marriage, choosing convenience and pleasure over commitment. And while all the damage is neatly cleaned up and packaged with a nice bow on it at the end of the movie, thousands of people in counseling rooms today can attest to the damage that such playing-around with intimacy leaves behind.

Instead of loving herself enough to have boundaries, Summer teases Tom again and again with a "maybe I will, maybe I won't" attitude that (understandably) drives Tom crazy. Tom, on the other hand, fails to play the man and call Summer to commitment and integrity.

It makes me sad that Tom and Summer are typical of many couples who unveil their deepest hearts to each other, wanting to experience the benefits and delights of marriage, but are so afraid of commitment that they refuse to go to the altar to be held accountable by each other, their friends, their relatives, and God.

I know. Many people say they don't want to get married until they're sure they've met the "right" person. So when a guy and girl meet and start getting close, they often move in together and try it out for a while. After all, doesn't it make sense to take a test drive before you buy a car? According to a recent study by the University of Denver, 70% of couples are living together before marriage these days.

The problem is that even when you buy a car, you don't know all there is to know about that car regardless of how many test drives you take. There's always the risk - in fact, the certainty - that some problem is hiding under the hood, waiting to disappoint you some months or years down the road. That's life. Nobody's not a lemon. Marriage by definition is the union of two incompatible people who decide to work at getting compatible. My wife and I discovered long ago that that's a lifelong process. Nearly every day we discover things about each other that we like and other things we don't like. Love is a decision to stay faithful to our marriage vows in spite of the things we don't like. That's part of the adventure, as well as the chaos. You'll never meet "Mr. Right" or "Ms. Right," if by that you mean someone who doesn't have some serious flaws.

Interestingly, the University of Denver study referred to above found that
"...couples who live together before they are engaged have a higher chance of getting divorced than those who wait until they are married to live together, or at least wait until they are engaged. In addition, couples who lived together before engagement and then married reported a lower level of satisfaction in their marriages."
That shouldn't surprise us. God's directions really work. So if you're single (and if you don't want to stay that way), find someone you're reasonably sure you'd like to spend the rest of your life with. Hold that person and yourself accountable to sexual purity while you date and get to know each other better. Then get married. Don't keep putting it off; in the Bible's down-to-earth language, "it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:9).


Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

Thanks for this, Mike. Here's an interesting article on a related theme: "The Evolution of Divorce".

Mike said...

That is a fascinating article. I especially like the discussion about the "soul-mate" model of marriage that is very prevalent among Christians. The idea that God has chosen only one person in the universe for you to marry, and your job is to find that one ideal person, contributes I think to much of the disillusionment that hits people when they find out how much work it takes to build a healthy marriage. Of course we know that God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass. But from the perspective of earth, there are conceivably many people out there with whom I could forge a happy marriage. A happy marriage doesn't just happen because we find the "right" person; it happens because of much prayer, much grace, much work, and much humility.