Posted by: 15shekels | December 12, 2010

Eve’s Dangerous Legacy

Merryweather: Sweet princess…from this slumber you shall wake, when true love’s kiss, the spell shall break.
Chorus: [singing] For true love conquers all!
-Sleeping Beauty, Disney version

“You can have my soul. I don’t want it without you – it’s yours already!”
-Bella, Twilight New Moon

“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)
-The Bible

The words of the curse echo from the garden of Eden through history. It makes great movies, but shatters lives—the idol of romance.

When Eve rebelled against God in the garden, this was part of her punishment. It is a complex prescription, foretelling ugly power struggles as well as outsized desire. For these purposes I want to discuss that outsized desire (I suppose I’m not ready to give up my power struggles). It is a desire that whispers impossible promises in the hearts of women. If you find the right boyfriend/husband, you will be happy. If you find him, you will be beautiful, worthy, secure.

We usually deny it, in this age of independence, career women, and casual sex. We insist that we have evolved past Eve and her chains. But Hollywood sees through our charade. Billions of dollars don’t lie—from the fairy tales we glue ourselves to as children, to teen dramas like Twilight, to romantic epics like Titanic—those tickets don’t buy themselves. In the secret places in our hearts, we love to watch movies in which romance is of life and death importance, the only thing worth pursuing. These movies end with the couple overcoming a conflict to “end up together,” the credits rolling before their life together really begins (if it’s a comedy) or with a tragic but bittersweet death that parts the lovers, but with the hint of immortal significance (if it’s a drama).

What’s the danger in indulging our inner romantics? Can I really be calling fairy tales dangerous?

Romantic movies, while they can fan the flame of our idolatry, are merely symptoms of this deeply rooted problem. They are not the problem (and I will continue to watch them until proven otherwise). However, we do need to take the idol itself seriously. Whatever form it takes, when we worship romance, it takes a heavy toll on our relationships and on our hearts.

First, when we believe that a romantic relationship should be the source of meaning and fulfillment in our lives, we set a trap for our significant others. No man can live up to the prince we have created in our minds. He isn’t supposed to. When we treat boyfriends or husbands like gods, then every mistake they make, every careless statement, tears our self-images and world-views to shreds. We either start our search afresh, insisting that “I thought he was the one, but he wasn’t” or we suffer unnecessary and constant disappointment.

(I should clarify that men can idolize love, or often sex, as foolishly as women. But because I think this idol, thanks to Eve, is particularly tempting to women, I focus on our perspective for now).

Many marriages end these days because the couple claims that they have “fallen out of love.” With the purely feelings-based definition of love that Hollywood and our lying hearts have endorsed, I find it amazing that any marriage stays together.

Equally tragic is the toll of this idol on women who do not find a romantic partner, or find him later than they would have hoped. Life is not worth living without love, we hear and believe. Single women are pathetic, we hear and believe. Bridget Jones is funny, but only because laughing at our fear makes us feel stronger.

In a way, modernist feminism is on the right track, insisting that women don’t need men to be happy. But its fatal mistake is trying to replace the romance idol with other flimsy idols like career, sex or power. These can’t carry our hearts any better than romance can.

There is only one thing that can shatter this idol, and it happens to be a romance far more epic and beautiful than any between a man and a woman:

“‘Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.’
‘In that day,’ declares the Lord,
‘you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.'” -Hosea 3:14-16

We were not created to worship romance; we were created to worship God. An all-perfect, all-powerful, fiercely protective, endlessly loving God who adores each of us so much that he left heaven to enter our broken world and be tortured and murdered, so that each of us could be with Him forever. Is that not the most romantic story that has ever been told? It is only when we let the truth of this story sink deep into our hearts that we will feel worthy, beautiful and fulfilled.

It is only then that we realize we do not need earthly romance to be happy. If we don’t find it, we already have overflowing love. And if we do find it, we can love each other in a healthy way, because we stand side by side worshiping God, rather than gazing into each other’s eyes and worshiping each other. When we understand that we are all sinners who deserve death, forgiven by God’s grace, we are able to love each other as broken sinners, and extend grace to each other. When we understand that we have already been rescued, we can stop demanding that we rescue each other.

Oh, and if a fairy-tale ending is what you want, here’s a real one:

“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” -Revelation 22:3-5

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