This is part 2 of my Fifty Shades of No post.
Over twenty years of ministry, Mark and I have mentored hundreds of married couples in crisis. Many of those couples were dealing with issues caused by pornography–and no, it wasn’t always the guys. Sometimes it was the women who were reading erotica or even just secular love stories filled with steamy love scenes. Many of these couples would say, “Marriage shouldn’t be this hard.” When we would dig deeply into why they expected marriage to not be so difficult, it often came down to the television shows they watched, the novels they read, or the movies they viewed that painted a different–and unrealistic–picture.
I’ve seen way too many marriages begin to fall apart because the couple was not careful and discerning about the messages they were believing from whatever form of media they were “digesting.” Some even admitted that it was constant exposure to work conversations or the moms they were hanging around with that were affecting their perspective, causing discontent, or eroding their sense of right and wrong. We tell our kids that they need to choose their friends wisely and that applies to us as parents, too!
No I won’t see the movie or read the book but I have seen plenty of movies and read plenty of books that have affected my thinking and skewed my perspective even just a slight bit. The problem with that is a slightly skewed perspective away from the way God wants me to live can easily become a slippery slope.
Let me share with you one such time and one such movie that has forever stuck with me. This was many years ago when Mark and I were experiencing a tough time in our marriage. It was a few years after he finished Bible college and a few years into his first ministry assignment. I was a stay-at-home mom of four little ones. Mark was busy with ministry and we were living under the same roof but there wasn’t a lot of emotional connection in our relationship. I wouldn’t say our marriage was in trouble, but my heart was definitely vulnerable.
One night Mark was at a church meeting. I put all the kids to bed and decided to pop in a movie I’d rented earlier in the week. It was the movie The Bridges Over Madison County.
The movie was about a mom named Francesca who was devoted to her family (played by Meryl Streep). Her husband was gruff and unkind and it was obvious she was living in a loveless marriage. The husband took the kids away for four days to the State Fair leaving mom to care for things at home.
A photographer, Robert (played by Clint Eastwood), stops by the farm to ask for directions as he’s looking for covered bridges to photograph. Francesca befriends the photographer and takes him to see the bridges he’s searching for. A four-day affair results between the two characters. While this didn’t happen on the screen, it was as if her life went from black and white to color. The way the movie presented the picture was as if the affair brought color to her life.
As I was sitting there watching the movie, I began to have thoughts like these:
- “Wow…I would sure love my black and white life to move to color.”
- “You know, I can’t blame her. She was in a loveless marriage. Everyone deserves to be loved.”
- “The affair didn’t really hurt anyone. The husband and kids were gone and it brought four days of happiness to her life.”
Before I knew it, I was swept into what I saw on the screen and personalizing it for my life. I was resonating with the character’s loveless marriage and rationalizing why her actions were okay for her and ultimately would be okay for me.
Then I caught myself. Conviction entered my heart. Wow….I got sucked into that message so easily! I almost started to believe lies that could have destroyed…particularly if I would have acted on those lies, believing my happiness was all that needed to be considered.
What we think, what we read, what we see does affect our morals, our values, and our sense of right and wrong. I have personally experienced that…or I wouldn’t have taken the time to write about it.
The Bible isn’t relative to what we think or feel. It’s truth. Absolute truth. God gives it to us as an instruction book for life. Not to limit us, but to set us free and protect us from making choices that can hurt us or those who love us. He gives us guidelines for what to think and directions for how to live because he loves us and wants the best for us. Our feelings can lead us astray, because they change all the time. God’s truth guides us because it never changes.
Several have asked why this book and movie were singled out. If we’re concerned with them, shouldn’t we be concerned about other books we read and movies we watch. Yes! Absolutely yes! There are good reasons you don’t let your kids read or see certain things and there are good reasons why we, as parents, should be discerning about what we read or see.
As one who has helped put back together the pieces of too many broken lives and broken marriages–including my own– I can attest that being careful about the messages we expose ourselves is very important.
That’s not judgment. Nor is it criticism.
That’s first-hand experience.
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I appreciate your input on this topic SO much! I have had experiences similar to what you’ve shared, and have learned to steer clear of the types of literature and movies you mention in this article. I also learned that even Christian romance novels often fueled unrealistic expectations in my marriage. My steady, stable, reliable husband should not have to “compete” with fictitious romeos for my respect and admiration. Thanks for your good word!