Confession time: My wife and daughters think I’m a hopeless romantic. I know, I know; that doesn’t sound like the Curmudgeon and Coot that you see on this blog, right? Well, they might have a good reason for their misguided assumptions. After all, my favorite movies are things like You’ve Got Mail, 50 First Dates, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (and the Adam Sandler remake), and Notting Hill.
One of my avocations is storytelling, and as a storyteller, I recognize the difference between reality and fiction. People will ask me how, as a Christian, I can tell stories that I know aren’t true (fantasies, myths, etc.), and I have an answer: “Because they are such that I WISH that they could be true.” Yes, I realize that they aren’t real, but I could wish them to be true. Hence, my love of Narnia.
However, the Church has swallowed, almost whole, a Greek myth mated with Hollywood lies, and is accepting it as gospel truth. I am referring to, of course, the idea of Soul Mates.
According to Wikipedia, in The Symposium, Plato has one of his characters describe the first people as having four arms and legs, two sets of genitals and one head with two faces. When these people became too powerful, Zeus split them into two halves, each with a face, two arms, two legs and a set of genitals.
These split humans were in utter misery ….. [and] would forever long for his/her other half; the other half of his/her soul. It is said that when the two find each other, there is an unspoken understanding of one another, that they feel unified and would lie with each other in unity and would know no greater joy than that.
From Plato directly to today, we have, without modification, the definition of what we believe about ‘soulmates.’
“You Complete Me”
Anyone else want to barf? I know I do. We are awash in media today. If Newton Minnow could say that “television is a vast wasteland” in 1961, and Neil Postman could write about how our culture is Amusing Ourselves To Death, in 1985, just how deep are we in media and its message, today? I’m not talking about the world, I’m talking about the Church.
We are awash with media and the media’s message, and we, all too often, give the media’s message as much or more credence than that of the Bible. The Bible says, “don’t be unequally yoked?” We respond with “But he’s my soulmate”, and engage in missionary dating. The Bible tells us that it is better to live in an attic than with a nagging wife, and what do we do? We find a wife really easy on the eyes but who is a demanding princess and marry her.
Believe it or not, the Bible actually gives pretty spot-on counsel to those who are seeking marriage, and pretty much contradicts everything Hollywood is selling us. Especially soulmates. In South Pacific, the show-stopper is Some Enchanted Evening, a song that is a classic in the American Songbook. The lyric goes,
Some enchanted evening
When you find your true love,
When you feel her call you
Across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side,
And make her your own
Compare that with the quote from Wikipedia, above, and you can see that Plato’s Soulmate is a direct ancestor of today’s romantic ideal. Yes, Some Enchanted Evening is a beautiful song, and yes, I would like to think that there is such a thing as “love at first sight” (remember, as a storyteller, I thrive on suspension of disbelief), but I know that it’s really nothing more than a load of sentimental tosh.
“This Is The One God Had For Me”
But the real problem for Christians is that the Church peddles its own brand of this tosh. We adopt Plato and Hollywood, mix it with our theology and adapt it to come up with our own version of Soulmates, one with an air of holiness and sanctification. We mix Plato and Calvin, and say that not only is our spouse our soulmate, but it’s God who created and ordained that soulmate for me.
At one point in his little book, Why: Making Sense of God’s Will, Adam Hamilton presents the paradox of missing God’s will, and in doing so, screwing things up bigtime for people other than yourself. Using the example of God’s will for a spouse, he posits a situation in which it was God’s will for him to go to University of Kansas, where he is to meet and marry Miss Wright. But, missing God’s will, he goes to Kansas State, never meeting Miss Wright, but does meet and marry Miss Wrong. Having missed Miss Wright, Miss Wright misses God’s will, and meets and marries Mr. Wrong, who was supposed to marry a third person. So, by failing to follow God’s will, Hamilton messes up the will of God for five lives, not to mention the children that will result from missing God’s will.
Ridiculous, isn’t it? And yet, don’t we blithely talk about how God led us to our soulmate, how this is the one that God had for us. I can’t count the number of times I have read someone testifying about how God has created their marriage, ordained their soulmate for them. Oh, there might be horrible problems in the marriage, like abuse or refusal, but God brought them together. And they have testimony of just how miraculous their meeting was, so they know it was God! (God sure gets blamed for a lot, doesn’t He?)
The late, great comic legend, Milton Berle, was king of television back in the 50’s. Berle was not a cerebral comic; in fact he was known for telling his writers to make his jokes “lappy”. He wanted his jokes to be easily understood, he wanted to make them so open that it would be like laying it in the audience’s lap. Hence, “lappy.” The problem with Christians is that we want God to be “lappy”, to lay everything in our laps, including a wife or husband.
Don’t Just Sit There, Get Working
“So Brother Curmudgeon,” I can hear someone asking, “don’t you believe that God has someone for each of us, that He has created one special person for each of us? After all, He created Eve for Adam, right?”
Uh, no. Yes, God created Eve for Adam, but no, He isn’t creating one special person for each of us. After all, how many others has He fashioned from ribs, huh?
I do believe that God has ordained marriage, but I also believe that He ordained His word and His ways, and that it is His intention and desire that we use them to live our lives for him. God moves in ways that are in keeping with His word, and we need to do the same thing. His ordaining is not going to contradict His word. And he is not going to lay everything in our laps. We are expected to learn His word and ways, and use them to live for His glory.
In discussing this with Wife, she reminded me of that verse in 1 Cor. 3 that says that we are co-workers with God. In the same book, Why, Hamilton gives the following illustration about creating our lives in God’s will:
Hamilton co-writes books with another person, and the process usually begins with Hamilton writing an outline of the book, detailing the chapters to be included, and giving a very rough, incomplete skeleton of the book. This he sends to his co-author, who starts to fill in the chapters, outlining paragraphs, giving suggestions as to directions for the different points Hamilton wants to make. This gets returned, and Hamilton begins the process of writing a final draft of the book, putting flesh to his friend’s suggestions, making changes in content and direction if need be, and basically completing a somewhat (nearly) final draft, and sends it back. His co-author then reads it, proofs it, and makes possible editorial suggestions and returns it to Hamilton, who finishes the final polishing up of the manuscript, and sends it off to his publisher.
Together, Hamilton and friend create the book. In the same way, God gives the direction and guidelines to us, giving us His word and the knowledge of godly living. This He puts in our hands, and we, with our personal skills and abilities, begin to craft a life. We go to God for revisions and help in revisions, re-drafting our manuscript, and keep building our lives as we receive further direction (note, I said direction, not dictates!). God doesn’t lay the manuscript in our lap, He consults with us and gives us guidance and direction, but we have input into the editorial process of our lives.
So I’m going to end this article with a link to a song that is a great help in debunking the concept of Soulmates.
This set of lyrics sums up the foolishness of the myth:
And look, I’m not undervaluing what we’ve got when I say
That given the role chaos inevitably plays in the inherently flawed notion of “fate”
It’s obtuse to deduce that I’ve found my soulmate at the age of seventeen
It’s just mathematically unlikely that at a university in Perth
I happened to stumble on the one girl on Earth specifically designed for me