Not Love, Actually

Guest post by Christian Robert Shockley:

Around Christmas time every year, we are flooded with romantic found love. It’s as simple as holiday ads depicting happy couples and as poorly written as a horde of Hallmark movies with never-changing plotlines. The only things that change are the names of characters and the small New England towns in which they live.

The plot usually goes like this: woman faces the heartaches of loneliness in wintertime. A gruff, ruggedly handsome, perfectly stoic man moves into town; and he happens to move in next door to said woman. A wise old lady across the street prods girl to “give love another chance” with this new man.

The woman’s sink breaks or basement floods or roof leaks. Handyman fixes it.

The woman learns miraculously to overcome her insecurities, charmed by the man’s dashing good looks and quiet nature. She believes again that “true love really is real.”

But wait, handyman reveals a dark secret from his past. Woman is thrown into a tailspin. The wise old lady gives more advice.

Woman learns to forgive man.

They embrace.

The camera pans out as viewers see snow falling beautifully on Christmas day.

End of movie.

Take a bathroom break; the next show starts in two minutes and it’s exactly the same.

We see through this kind of nonsense. But it doesn’t mean the potential heartache of the season is less likely. We may know that love and relationships aren’t built like Hallmark movies, but it doesn’t stop the pains of singleness in the face of the steamroller that is industrialized romanticism.

Society tells us that part of Christmas is about individuals finding true love. But the incarnation shows us the radical power that a life of singleness can have for the Gospel’s sake. We’ve turned Christmas into one more chance to make the steadfast love of God about our personal need to feel wanted.

And truly, God cares about those needs. He cared enough to feel the pain of total emotional and spiritual abandonment for the sake of singles and marrieds alike. Jesus knows the pain of a lonely life, but he never regretted it. He embraced singleness for the sake of a greater love.

Now it’s true that Son-of-God-singleness and fallen-human-singleness are much different. And it’s true that there is no greater worth in singleness than there is in marriage and vice versa. But as we cycle through life, we notice emotional patterns that shape our spiritual well being. Christmas is a patterned trap for singles—an invitation to regret God’s calling and to long for a seemingly more satisfying joy outside of him.

But the incarnation empowers your singleness to count for more than society expects. Singleness doesn’t have to be a life-stage that you’re passing through until you find the greater joys of marital companionship; it’s a high calling that frees you to love widely and deeply now.

Everything I’ve just said could be viewed as one more single person trying to muster up the courage to make it through this season without emotional scars. Or it could be viewed for what it actually is: a truth that enables the body of Christ to embrace its diversity for the joy of the nations.

ThoughtsChristian Shockley