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“And they lived happily ever after.”
Few story endings enjoy greater “cliché status” than this well-worn clincher, which generations of fairy tales, Disney movies, and romantic comedies have successfully employed in shaping most everyone’s idea of an ideal relationship. Women in particular are vulnerable to this mindset, because society tends to cater romantic notions to female audiences. This is no different in Christian popular culture—the same rules apply and the same romantic tendencies are encouraged in young women of the faith. Although there’s little doubt that these “spiritually romantic” approaches are meant well, they are having a more sinister effect on young women than others might suspect.
A common trope among young women of the faith is the perspective of God as a spiritual matchmaker. This is not to say that young men don’t also suffer from the same expectations—but Christian popular culture panders God-given romance specifically to young women. You needn’t look too far to find examples for this. A popular phrase currently making the rounds on social media claims that if you “dance with God, He’ll let the perfect man cut in.” These words are usually set against a backdrop of a couple in some sort of romantic ecstasy due to star-gazing or dancing in Paris.
So what exactly is the problem here? After all, it’s not a bad thing if young women are getting excited about their faith and building trust in God. While there is nothing wrong with having faith in a God that will fulfill your innermost desires and lead you to a holy and beautiful life, the frame of thinking becomes problematic when an entire relationship with God is built solely on the foundation of a promise that “the perfect man” is just waiting in the wings for each girl; so long as she prays hard enough each night. Try as she might, she may find herself losing the ability to differentiate between true prayerfulness and her own expectations for wish fulfillment.
The situation becomes even more problematic when considering the notion of “the perfect man.” What exactly is impressed upon a young woman’s mind when she hears a promise that she will receive a perfect man if she prays to God? The expectations built up over years of faithful prayer can be devastating when matched with a normal, flawed human being. I once heard this so-called “perfect man” described as “a mix between Prince Charming and Saint Joseph.” Therefore, many young girls are on an eager hunt for this so-called Saint Charming and will stop at nothing to locate him. Saint Charming has the perfect balance between piety and romance—a true role model in wooing and courtship, never stepping over boundaries and always focused first and foremost on God. Saint Charming will rarely sin, never argue, and certainly never jeopardize the relationship by being mediocre and human. Unfortunately, Saint Charming does not exist.
Yet many young women of the faith are convinced that he does, thanks to wishy-washy theology that paints God as a personal matchmaker rather than the infinite Creator of all reality. This is not to say that petitioning God for personal matters is wrong. “Ask and you shall receive” is a hallmark of biblical interactions between mankind and God. Yet there must be some perspective. Of all the rich lessons present in Christian theology, this notion of God as a spousal delivery system should not be as prevalent among young people as it is.
Essentially, the women who become enamored with this notion of idyllic romance are chasing illusions. They are bound to be disappointed simply because the perfect man, promised to them through their prayers to God, will never show up. It’s no wonder that divorce rates (even among religious couples) are higher than ever. Married couples are facing a reality that is almost set up to fail through years of culture maintaining that conflicts or struggles are surefire warning signs of a crumbling relationship.
This misguided spiritual emphasis on romance has ultimately left society with a generation of hurt, confused, and forgotten women who cannot understand why their prayers have not yet been answered. There has been a worrisome lack of communication on the realities of life and relationships. In an increasingly secular society, those of the faith might do well in encouraging their young people to develop a deeper and more rounded approach to their relationship with God.