Ok world, confession time.
I am totally and disgustingly hooked on The Bachelor (gasp!). It’s true. Worse then that, the longevity of this relationship is embarrassing, I’m talking years, and I’m not proud of it. I’ve journeyed with countless couples, watched them meet, find love, follow their hearts and all too often, part ways. I watch every week for months. I willingly strap in for the emotional roller coaster. I anticipate the highs and I’m shocked by the lows. Chris Harrison seems like a good friend and I believe him every time he tells me that this will be the most dramatic rose ceremony yet. When it doesn’t end the way I want, I swear I’ll never watch again and when it does, I boldly declare my belief in love and reality TV (somehow I end up watching the next season either way). After more helicopter rides, cocktails parties, The Women/Men Tell All episodes, sobbing rejects, awkward group dates and high hopes crushed by eventual breakups, than I can count, I think it might be time to quit. (Do they have a patch for this? gum? pills? injection?)
As much as I want to believe that Sean (from the Big D… what what!) will find the love he didn’t find in Emily this coming season, I don’t think I can do it. Here’s why.
As a single girl, I’m starting to think (ok fine, I’ve thought it for awhile but I’m finally starting to admit it) that my addiction to this “reality” show is unfair to any guy that would ever engage in the pursuit of a relationship with me. What is ironic about The Bachelor is that it’s coined a reality show and it couldn’t be further from it. My grandparents have been married for sixty plus years, and I’m pretty sure their first date wasn’t a group date involving cocktails and bikinis. My parents, just celebrated thirty years, and my dad didn’t propose on a beach after six grueling weeks of rose ceremonies. In fact, it was at a restaurant and he said, with great gumption, “I want you to be my wife.” It wasn’t necessarily glamorous, but it was real. I’m not saying it can’t happen (The Bachelor is now responsible for three eventual marriages), but I think it’s fair to say, with humility and gentleness my fellow addicts, it’s not the norm. Most guys don’t get to choose from a line up of twenty five beautiful women all vying for their attention (Side note: Since when is that okay? Since it’s made to look glamorous? Reality: This is walking into brutal televised rejection for most girls, not pretty and not okay.) We tread a dangerous line when our expectations of reality are formed from the unconventional, uncommon and flat out untrue.
Unfortunately, The Bachelor encourages physical expectations and more even dangerously, emotional ones, that can only be met by a guy whose casted and coached, made up, wardrobed, placed in ideal and favorable circumstances and then edited, so his acne and insensitive remarks are dissolved as if they never existed. How unfair of us to hold men to that. And these expectations are not only placed on any relational counterpart, we place them on ourselves. We hold ourselves to a standard too high to ever be reached without the wardrobe, make up, and final cutting room.
A friend of mine recently finished a six month online dating subscription and I can tell you one thing, dating can be ugly and quite a contrast from what we see on TV. It can be fun and exciting but it can also be awkward, extremely awkward. Relationships take work and time and commitment. There’s uncertainty and risk, imperfections and annoyances. Feelings fade, humans disappoint, lets not be disillusioned into thinking the opposite.
So what should our expectation be? God’s sovereignty. And friends, you can take that to the bank. Scripture doesn’t provide explicit instructions on dating, but it does tell us that God has a plan and he is working it out in us. He is in control, he is faithful and he wants our good, even when we are doubtful and don’t see how our current circumstance could be any form of it. Scripture is clear on what marriage should look like, so we pursue that, seeking to portray Christ to a broken and dying world. We release the idea of any human nearing perfection and pursue Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for our sinful imperfection. If he provides a way for us to do that in the context of marriage, great. If not, we do it with deep and abiding community with other believers and lovers of His glory.
The second reason is the ridiculous commitment that this show demands. Ok, maybe it doesn’t demand it but I am all too quick to give it. Maybe you have the resolve to leave it all in your living room, but not me. The time and energy to plan around the show airing is just the beginning. As much as I would like to deny it, I get totally and completely emotionally committed. I spend time debriefing what happened this week and predicting what might happen the next. Emotions are spent liking certain contestants, disliking others, none of which have I met and engaged in conversation with. Rarely do I give them the benefit of the doubt, admitting that they’ve been intentionally portrayed a certain way and away from the cameras they might actually be decent sane individuals. Nope. It’s fun to laugh at their shortcomings and pity their emotional rants. I want good for the good ones and can’t wait to see the dramatic crazies get in their limo and ride off into the sunset.
I can’t say the Lord would approve of such a commitment and such harsh judgment of others. Would he not rather me spend time waiting and watching, anticipating with fear and urgency the outcome of the souls that I encounter daily? Would he not rather me spend time building meaningful relationships, unhindered by a flat screen and 1080p? Should I not be a good steward of what is right in front of me, loving like Jesus did? Time and emotion spent crying out to God in prayer, fighting against real live injustice, and anticipating Christ’s return seems a little more eternally valuable.
Finally, I think one of the most unfortunate results of this socially acceptable addiction is the illusion that love with another human is the end all be all of our existence. This is something to put your life on hold for, to give anything and everything to the pursuit of. Yet, according to Scripture, that’s just not the case. Jesus alone is cause for those things. Marriage and dating are a vehicle for God’s glory. The desire is good and God given, but we must be weary of making it about us, because it’s just not. God knows if and when marriage will better serve Him in our lives and when it won’t. And it may never, he may give us the gift of singleness indefinitely. And this is no less a gift to be stewarded well. I read this quote not too long ago and found it to be a perfect reminder when the world tempts me to believe, as a single, that I am missing out. “Your greatest need is not a spouse. Your greatest need is to be delivered from the wrath of God, and that has already been accomplished for you through the death and resurrection of Christ. So why doubt that God will provide for a much, much lesser need? Trust His sovereignty, trust His wisdom, trust His love.” Seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33).
Bachelor lovers, hear me: I stinking love this show. Trust me, a deep affection for watching others find love and happiness on reality TV is not lost on me. And I would love nothing more than to journey with Sean this season (and then be waiting in the wings in Dallas when his new found love goes sour). But I think God is asking me to do otherwise. I’m not saying this is a black and white rule, but simply my conviction, after much wrestling, to which I must be obedient. I would encourage you, if you find yourself hooked to this or any other program or media outlet, to pray and seek the Lord in humility. Find out what commitments and priorities please Him and bring Him great glory. Then do accordingly. Jesus was unafraid to challenge the cultural norm, lets follow close in his footsteps.
*Quote taken from Single Blues in the Land of “I Do’s”