Before college, my movie tastes were limited to action and adventure (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, James Bond) with the occasional family-friendly series (That’s So Raven, The Waltons, The Cosbys). I don’t remember seeing (m)any romantic figurehead films.
However, in college, things changed. In a conservative dorm of 50+ females whose gut reaction was horror when someone asked –
“Have you seen Pride and Prejudice?”
-and my response was, “No,” I was soon indoctrinated in all the best clean romance movies because the conversation which followed went something like:
“OMG! WHY NOT?!”
“I just … haven’t ever wan…”
“Well, you must! It’s a classic. What are you doing Saturday night?”
Circle a calendar date, figure out who buys popcorn, call dibs on the dorm Blu-Ray player.
I sat down preemptively cynical, but I was surprised when I found myself liking a particular genre of romance; romantic comedy.
The improbably circumstances made me laugh, and I liked laughing. I discovered that I’d never laughed as much as I could’ve as a child.
Romantic comedy plots are all the same; two people somehow manage to do everything they can to mess up their potential relationship, the world is against them and they are against themselves (their best friend even fails them), yet they defy the odds, fall in love, and choose each other at the end anyway.
In a way, I appreciate these movies more than solely romantic dramas; comedies are full of awkward impressions, embarrassing moments, and fights – basically the stuff of real life. They never portray love as easy or smooth, even though their characters do get the happily ever after as the credits roll.
I just finished reading a book titled Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature. It was written by an ex-English professor from Concordia University, WI named Veith. In his analysis of comedy-centric plots, Veith writes;
“The assurance of a happy ending frees us to laugh at the pain that [a person] does experience at the moment.”
While umbrelled by the romantic comedy genre, we know we can laugh as the characters stumble through life because they are reaching toward each other. We know they will reach each other, no matter what comes between; that’s the genre assurance. As Veith aptly notes;
“The difference is the ending … both comedy and tragedy deal with the extremes of human experience and both put suffering and joy in relationship to each other. In comedy, the pain is transformed by the ultimate joy.”
The comic genre delights the viewers throughout the movie because they watch the characters suffer in hope of the joy that waits for them at the end. Joy is predestined in comedy. Pain is temporary. The quantity of pain is light and insignificant, although still poignant, compared to the happiness. The ultimate message declares, “All the suffering was worth it!”
Do you see where I’m going here?
In his words to the Romans, the apostle Paul says, “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” (8:18 NLT) Similarly, James reminds his readers, “Your life is like a morning fog; it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (4:14 NLT).
In our temporary lives on earth, we are free to, in a sense, laugh at the pain of our moment. Not because it’s not painful, but because we have the assurance of a happy ending.
We are destined for joy.
Think of any romantic comedy. The characters don’t know the ending. Their struggles and setbacks are extremely real and hurtful to them, just like our lives are for us. The difference is we know the ending.
In the prophetic book of Jeremiah, God tells His people, “I know the thoughts that I think concerning you … thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you the end that you wait for.” (29:11 JUB)
The end that you wait for…
We are destined for joy.
The epic poet Dante defines tragedy as a story which starts with joy, but ends in pain, and conversely defines comedy as a story which finds its beginning in pain and its ending in joy. By that definition, the Bible is the centuries long divine romantic comedy of the world. Our sin painfully corrupts the world, but yet through Christ’s forgiveness, we head toward perfection and ultimate joy. Everything to thwart God’s romance toward us fits somewhere in between.
Here I am doing everything I can (it seems) to mess up my relationship with God, the world is against God and I, and I can be against God. My friends even sometimes fail me. Yet God defies the odds, falls in love sacrificially, and chooses me anyway.
I need to learn to appreciate the romantic comedy genre of my life – awkward impressions, embarrassing moments, and fights – basically everyday situations. These situations never portray love or life with God as easy or smooth or flawless, but when the credits roll, I’ll have the end that I waited for: Joy Himself.