Cheesy Christmas movie warrants a long overdue blog post!

OK so here’s the thing!  I have not posted on this blog in a long time! Actually the last post I wrote on here, was back on the 6th of November.  However, for some reason I chose to keep that post private…like the 3 posts I had written before it.  The last post I actually made publicly visible was written all the way back in July!  Wow!  So the thing then is that I am stupendously busy and I simply do not have time to be posting just now.  However, sometimes these posts will insist on being written. You know, because I am so busy, I really do not have time to be watching cheesy Christmas movies, but I joked to myself that life is too short to not watch cheesy Christmas movies, and I sat down and watched the whole thing on YouTube. And you know what?!  I liked it!  And then naturally, I thought to myself – today without fail I have to write a Huggie-Wuggie post – and here we are!
For anyone who cares here is the link to A Match Made at Christmas – a very inoffensive way to spend two hours. And seriously, the main character, Holly’s wardrobe – is absolutely incredible, especially for someone who does not supposedly have so much money! But yeah!

So naturally this made me think about the nature of love. Obviously it’s a rom-com and we all know exactly what is going to happen in the end, via some heart-to-hearts and some difficult home truths.  And I was thinking:  “You know what?  All the glitz and the glamour and the romance are not just good, but actually important for a marriage. Just as I need to make some time for some mental downtime by watching something cute and fun for a couple of hours, so in a marriage or a relationship you need to make time for some inconsequential fun, which is like giving your relationship some downtime, spending quality time bonding over some frivolous activity, like netflix and chilling.” And because it is a Christmas movie it has all the fairy lights and sparkly Christmas trees and it was just some serious eye-candy  – just some frothy fun – it was good!  But as always, I of course sat down and analysed the “love” on offer. And as in all these movies, books etc, everything turned on a declaration of love: “Because I love you!”  Her breath literally caught when he declared this, and I observed that where she had previously declared her own feelings she had distinctly used the word “like” rather than love, leaving him as the man to conspicuously pronounce that “love” word first – oh yeah, erm, spoilers!

You know what, this occurs to me as I am writing this: I think that these declarations of love are always overly emphasised in these things.  I’m thinking that “love” is not a big all-encompassing feeling that you feel that propels you into a lifelong commitment.  Rather love is in terms of a relationship, as far as it matters is something that you work out everyday, through the thicks and the thins, and the highs and the lows.  So when you are about to embark on a relationship, “love” or the “feeling” that may propel you into a relationship is more about your commitment to work out this thing daily.  I may well have said this same thing before, in a variety of ways:  this commitment is particular to the person who is loving, and it is not about the person whom they love.  This is what all these movies get wrong in my opinion:  love (or the capacity for commitment) is a capacity that you can develop before your marriage, or during it. Ideally before it, and even before you meet the person whom you will eventually marry.  Then once the capacity is developed, then it needs a person to be centred on.   So yeah, if you happen to be the man who comes into my life, in the right place, at the right time, then my hope and confident expectation is that I will love you with all my effort and capacity etc. But that is not because of anything unique or exclusive to you.  However if I happened to be in a different place, and some other guy happened to slot into my life then, then I would expect to love him in an amazing way…so whomever I marry, I expect to love him in an amazing way, with specific nuances that spring from the unique dynamics of each possible pairing. Movies tend to give the impression that love is amazing because of the mysterious, cosmic (and crucially, uncontrollable) alignment of two people who are cosmically compatible.  (So, I guess the implication is, if you do not have this cosmic alignment, then your marriage is not likely to be so successful.) What I am saying is that I have personally worked on myself to develop a capacity for amazing love – that is working on my marriage, offering support, affection, consideration and listening to my husband, and everything else that is good, wise and holy that he might need so that I can hopefully trust that whomsoever I marry, as long as he has solid pursuit of Christ, and we do share a general compatibility, it will be amazing – by the grace of God. And that is all utterly within our combined control, assuming of course that God smiles His favour upon us. “Unless the LORD watches a city, the watchmen watch in vain, unless the LORD builds a house, the labourers labour in vain.” This verse means that if God for whatever reason frowns on your project, then it is doomed, no matter how hard we work on it, whatever that project might be, and that includes your marriage.  So we instead hope and pray that God would smile on our marriages…

A number of blog posts:
Well in the months of “my silence” I have thought through a number of blog posts, and naturally I did not write any of them down, so I’ve maybe forgotten a few (even if I had written them down they would by now be buried in the entrails of my various notebooks and very difficult to recover (I must find a better system to keep track of my various thoughts!))  However I am going to here write down all the ideas that I can remember:
Falling madly in character with you: – now written down  below
One further criterion – now written down below
The myth of love
Many ways to market  now written down below

Falling madly in character with you, (OR falling madly in love with your character probably makes more sense!)
– This is pretty much what I have written in the paragraphs above, but rephrased a different way:  give me earth-shattering character over “love” and feelings anyday. This is a big thing for me of all people to say, because I have previously declared that I have to be crazy about my husband. Well I think I’ve realised/accepted that what I need to be most crazy about is his earth-shattering pursuit of Christ, and obedience to Christ, and wanting to be like Jesus, and pursuing faith in God, and declaring the word of God and the power of God.  If I cannot be crazy about that, then by obsessing over things such as his physical appeal, staring into his eyes etc, I am simply being crazy full stop.  Man, to think that someone such as I, brought up in such a powerful understanding of God, and living for God, could ever be confused about that.  Here’s the thing:  truly earth-shattering character is love!  Really!  Just like this is true:  any man who is truly pursuing Christ and His word and His truth will automatically be a feminist, to the extent that it truly matters.  That is, he will recognise the inherent value of women as full valuable human beings, gloriously made in the image of God as surely as he is, and capable of everything in Christ – hearing from God, praying, spiritually bringing down fire from heaven, metaphorically – or possibly even physically.  He will work to respect the anointing that God has given me and give me the necessary space to express that, and listen out for and respect the strengths that I have that he does not, just as I would seek to recognise and acknowledge his own strengths in areas of my own weaknesses.  On the other hand, he would of course recognise that with all this I am physically weaker than he is, so he would seek to protect me with his own strength as necessary and a hug is symbolic of that protection (she sighs!)  You know, I know that God is genuinely a feminist because of what the Bible says.  Furthermore, all the most sincere men for God have all been feminists in the ways I describe above. Starting with my own amazing Dad. Everyone. Part of sincere Christianity is about striving to be like Jesus, and He was definitely a feminist, just as He cared about the poor, the marginalised, the weak. Similarly if someone truly understands the Bible, and the fact that everyone is made in the image of God, then he won’t be racist either. So when I meet someone and they are either just a little racist, or just a little sexist – or both, then I know that they don’t truly understand the Bible  – and to be clear these are the fundamentals of the Bible, and of our faith. If someone is to be my husband then frankly I have neither the time nor the inclination to be teaching him the fundamentals of the faith. If someone is going to be leading me in life then I need to insist on a certain level of spiritual maturity.  Simple fact:  If you do not understand Bible basics then you simply cannot have developed any spiritual maturity. Not knowing or understanding Bible fundamentals also suggests that he has not developed the capacity/motivation to open the Bible, read it, understand it and get his heart changed – which my husband will definitely need to have. So in short, if someone is displaying flagrantly sexist/racist attitudes, I honestly don’t need to investigate him  further romantically – I know that I can dismiss him out of hand, at least at that point.  That said, God does specialise in miracles, so God could work in such a person’s heart really quickly to deal with sexist/racist attitudes. The issue though is that I would have lost the goodwill regarding him to hang around to find out how God might have changed him. I am the kind of person who unceremoniously cuts people out of my life, and flagrant sexist/racist attitudes definitely qualify for unceremonious ditching, at least from any possibility of a close friendship.
An unfortunate fact is this: when you rely on the mystical love theory?  understanding?  then you make yourself vulnerable to potentially poor character.  Films always make it seem like “our marriage will be made in heaven because we have oodles of this mystical love, and we are soulmates and we stare deeply into one another’s eyes.”  However, that is absolute nonsense.  No, the reason our marriage will work is because we are both committed to developing outstanding character, and working on our communication, being vulnerable with one another, and committed to doing whatever it takes to make our marriage work, committed to persevering, “praying through”, forgiving one another endlessly. Beyond this, all those extra perks will be what make our marriage to be made in Heaven: the lovey-dovey, staring into one another’s eyes, hugs, the dates, the laughter. And you know what, these extra things also need to be practised and kept fresh! It can be easy to take them for granted, but staring deep into one another’s eyes until your souls catch fire requires the time to spend gazing into one another’s eyes, and the willingness to feel awkward with one another.  When you’re new in a relationship then your desire for one another and your general yearning for intimacy might give you the impetus to push through the awkwardness. However, when you have been married for perhaps a few years, then it might take real vulnerability to let your husband know that “actually, I still need you in that way!” and to ask him to also need you in that way. I hope that 5, 10, 20 years down the line, my husband and I will still be making time  in the busyness of life to gaze into one another’s eyes, thereby expressing and exchanging fresh vulnerabilities, and to hug/dance quietly on our patio while music gently plays in the background.  (Wait, did I say “our patio”?!  I’ve just remembered that I live in London – this would require a special prayer – please Lord!!!)
I hope that we would never get to the point of taking one another for granted, but that everyday, we take at least 5 minutes to celebrate the beauty of our love, truly giving our hearts and minds and full concentration to this. However the surest way to achieve that is to start now, working to learn to never take anyone for granted, always opening my ears to listen when someone is talking, to really hear what they are saying, no matter who they are, no matter how long they have been in my life.

So anyway, the point I am trying to make in this is that 1. for me, yes, lovey-dovey(ness – man, I sometimes skewer the English language!) is essential.  However, it needs to be built on a consistent, reliable foundation of earthshattering character.  In short, I need to fall madly in character with you – or rather, fall madly in love with your character.

The best available?
Have you ever been in a situation when you are looking through a number of options, and you have found one that is quite good – but you keep looking, trying to find the very best option available?  Well I found myself in that situation earlier today.  I have a tendency to always look for the absolutely best available, and I allowed myself to do that today when I was looking for a particular item. However, I also reminded myself that in life, with a finite amount of time, it is just not prudent to sit around and examine every single possibility. Sometimes you need to go with the first option that is good enough.  While it might sound unromantic to say it, this is definitely true of marriage.  Imagine how much time it would take to try to examine every possible romantic possibility on earth.  The reason that I am single thus far is because, with my strict criteria, literally no-one has yet been appropriate.  So when I do find someone, the mere fact is that if he is good enough at all, then he will already be utterly outstanding.  So I can be assured of a great relationship with him already. Even if I had the time, which I definitely do not, I simply do not have the inclination to be sitting and measuring and weighing guys to see which one might be marginally better than another. I am more than happy to go with the first “good enough” guy that I see – and utterly run with that! And then once again, because my criteria are so strict, I am never likely to have a big pool of candidates to choose from.  To be candid, the fact that I find even a single guy that is “good enough” will in itself be a miracle. So I am more than happy to run with that!

One further criterion:
It has been a long while since I added to my list of criteria.  And I realised recently that there is one single criterion which might obviate the need for the other criteria. And that is that this man needs to be in the right context to develop all the necessary criteria, and if he is utterly committed to that.  Related to that:  don’t consider a man if you despise or have no respect for his context: his friends/family, his church, his job, the things that he surrounds himself with.  So then, you have to ask yourself whether you truly respect or empathise with his context.

Many ways to market.  There is a Bible verse that mocks a fool, because he does not know the way to the market (off the top of my head): “he does not know the way to the market”.  Well when I talk about “market” here, I mean a successful marriage. And you know what, it occurs to me that there are many different routes to a successful marriage.  As long as your marriage contains all the right attributes of marriage, such as friendship, mutual kindness, mutual commitment, perseverance, communication, pursuit of outstanding character, then it does not really matter how you get there. The different routes to marriage might be  via friendship, or via strong physical attraction, or even in some cases arranged marriages.  However, some routes to marriage are more reliable than others.  Some people will have successful arranged marriages, as suddenly thrown together with little chance of escape, they are in essence forced to find traces of friendship or passion which could be fanned into flame, and somehow they find that within one another and go on to lead happy, loving and fulfilling lives together. (A wedding night where you already know one another is going to be awkward as it is.  How much more when you only met for the first earlier that same day or a few months ago.  Perhaps many arranged marriages would take a few days, weeks or months (years?) to build up to sexual activity.  (I think I’ve just had my idea for my next romance – I can already see an awkward bathing scene when our heroine (accidentally, of course!) sees her stern(?) overly strict?  gruff?  brusque?  but utterly gorgeous husband of 2 months  (who has up to that point coolly made no attempt to touch her whatsoever – you know, the kind of husband who did not really think he had any use for a woman at all but nevertheless finds himself saddled with one for political reasons or family machinations – let’s work those clichés!) bathing topless (but otherwise unrevealingly clothed – yes I am aware of the way wet clothes revealingly drape against bodies but this is not supposed to be x-rated!*) in a stream. He notices her watching but because he is so self-assured he does not blink an eyelid but casually continues to bathe himself and yeah…invariably a few days later he decides that he can find space in his life/bed for a woman after all, that is, the bathing scene lights a spark between them which invariably explodes into flame… Perhaps this might be after some accidental grazing of one another’s hands, or that old chestnut, he leans over her to get something from a cupboard (yeah they had cupboards back in those days!) – she unwittingly grazes/brushes/pushes against his body which results in their staring deep into one another’s eyes… In fact, why not try a new chestnut or rather a newer chestnut – somehow a blazing argument breaks out between them, which somehow results in him seeming more big and strong and male and powerful and blazingly but irrationally angry and she suddenly realises that that anger is actually an expression of the passion that he can’t help feeling for her, that he has been desperately attracted to her all along, hiding the attraction behind a facade of indifference. OK, thus far that is also very much an old chestnut, just a slightly different one to before.  What makes it newer if not altogether original is that instead of his reaching his head down to kiss her, she is the one who reaches out, because this realisation of his attraction to her gives her the courage to reach out her hands to try to find once again (and expose?) and explore beneath his thin tunic that strong masculine chest and those muscular arms that she had seen in that stream…while the poor man whimpers helplessly under her hands, desperately trying to fight against his own passion…which is obviously destined to be a losing battle. In romances, it is so rare to see a woman making the first move towards a man who has not made any romantic/sexual moves towards her, even if as here the man is clearly blazing with passion for her, unless she is actively cast as a seductress.  This is all the more true if the woman has not been married before so therefore there is a presumption that she is a virgin because of the strict society that they come from. However I prefer active heroines in my love stories thank you very much, who actively demonstrate their own sexual agency – virgin or no! This seems to be the most radical idea, that a female virgin could/would demonstrate her own sexual agency (even towards her own very somehow-the-fact-that-is-he-so-is stern-just-makes-him-all-the-more-handsome husband).  However, to be blunt she has been cooped up with his gorgeous body just as much as he has been cooped up with hers, curiousity and yearning have been building to fever pitch within her too…) In fact, a little like that fully-clothed pond scene from the BBC “Pride and Prejudice” with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle – if you know, you know! – but perhaps transported back to Biblical times when arranged marriages would have been more common everywhere around the world?) Or perhaps the fact that you are strangers might in some cases help to mitigate the awkwardness, like how it is sometimes easier to bare your heart to a complete stranger, because they are not privy to the intimate details of your life.) However I personally do not think that an arranged marriage is the most reliable route to marital success, at least for myself although arranged marriages are apparently more successful than our love marriages in the West (or they lead to fewer divorces, which is really not the same thing at all, for instance I’m sure that as with India, other societies where arranged marriages are relatively prevalent are more likely to frown on divorce). For myself I simply cannot entrust the single most significant decision of my life to other people, no matter how highly I trust those other people. I have to take this decision for myself, and live with the consequences if it does not work.
However, my real target in this section is the idea of marrying someone because of physical attraction. This is unreliable precisely because it is so compelling, and it often means that we don’t think straight and we want to jump straight into action. Where red flags are noticed, often our passion can be so strong that we would overlook those red flags. Obeying a compulsion to physical attraction can make us do truly crazy things, like jeopardise our existing marriages…or other crazy things. So perhaps it is best to learn from the outset to ignore these compulsions

The most reliable route I would say to a fantastic marriage is a kind friendship where you have had a chance to truly get to know one another and build up mutual respect, and learned too to have possibly hard conversations… 🙂

*And then of course the next few paragraphs turn out to be very x-rated indeed…

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