Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tall Tales: Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling? (Part Three)

Let's sum up what we've discussed so far in this final article in my Valentine's series.

And that, I think, is the root matter of these love stories we are so confused over. To sum up completely, love and marriage are real-life things, and good to read about. The thing we want to avoid, however, is immersing ourselves in certain types of love. As singles, we want to focus on stories where couples love each other in actions and in truth, and leave the emotional pick-me-ups for later. 

Myth #4 The Story Made Me Do It
There is one last point on this issue that only you can figure out: namely, if you fantasize over Mr. Darcy.

To be honest, it disturbs me when Mr. Darcy is blamed as the romantic paragon of virtue that is turning girls' heads around the globe. Austen never intended that, Darcy certainly isn't a romantic paragon, and neither should be stigmatized for setting romantic fancies ablaze.

It's the girl who's allowing her head to be turned.

Whew. Now that's over, and we can move on.

If you pick up a book, as  we have discussed, where the couple loves each other in actions and in truth, fantasizing over this couple can turn it into an emotional pick-me-up just as lethal as...well, I won't name any. :)

O LEAVE novels,  ye Mauchline belles,
Ye’re safer at your spinning-wheel;
Such witching books are baited hooks
For rakish rooks, like Rob Mossgiel;
Your fine Tom Jones and Grandisons,
They make your youthful fancies reel;
They heat your brains, and fire your veins,
And then you’re prey for Rob Mossgiel.
-Robert Burns

We can heat our brains and fire our veins just as well as the novel in our hands.  And if we trace this problem back to its root, it really comes down to whether or not we are content with what we have. Whether we read all these love stories for edification, or for 'hang in there! someday, this will be me." If we're not content now, single, then we won't be content married. If we aren't content with the thought of a 'human' husband, then we'll never be content with an 'archangel'.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am in to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13

And the books we read will not change our attitude of contentment or discontentment. Choosing not to do something (like reading about Mr. Darcy) won't help you to do something. (Like develop a contented spirit.) 
To explain this more clearly, take the couples we talked about in the last post: Phillip and Elnora, and Brian and Cecilia.
I used Phillip and Elnora to present the concept of loving 'in actions and in truth'. If I read the book, then that's the attitude I'll be reading about. But, if I have the wrong attitude in reading about the right relationship, do you think the right will overcome the wrong? I don't think so. Most likely, if I read about godly love with a discontented attitude, I won't even be able to see that godly love is there. I'll twist their story into a wrong desire because of my blindness.
Likewise with Brian and Cecilia. If I have the right attitude reading about the wrong relationship, do you think my right attitude will be changed because of the unbridled passion? I don't think so. Most likely, if I read about the wrong kind of love with the right attitude, I would be able to see that it is wrong, and have the sense enough to lay it aside.

In one sentence, your attitude affects your interpretation of the story.

Myth #5: Overcoming Temptation
So as we've looked at above, you'll know, if you have the correct reading mindset, whether the love story in your hands is reaffirming you or tempting you. If you don't have the right mindset, you probably won't be able to tell either way.

But for argument's sake, let's just assume that you do.

If you recognize that the book in your hands is reaffirming, well and good. Keep it. But if you recognize that it is giving you wrong desires, then you face a choice. Whether you will face temptation, or flee from it. As young ladies still maturing in our Christian walk, we are called to be innocent about what is evil, and wise about what is good. (Romans 16:19-20) We are called to be holy, which includes our reading choices: set apart. (1 Peter 2:9) We are also called to take the way out of temptation that God provides for us. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

With food for the mind, especially in the matter of books, we deliberately choose what we are going to allow--it's not a situation where we are helpless to flee, and must refute.

Choose to flee temptation. Fighting in this case is flirting.

Myth #6 Removing without Replacing
I've had to remove a book or two based on the criteria I've written above. You might choose to do so as well, after reading these articles. But let me leave you with one final encouragement.
Read, if you will, the following verses from Luke 11:24-26:

  “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’  When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

This parable illustrates an important principle of Christianity. If you remove something from your life, you must find something to replace it with, or you will fall back into the exact same pit you tried to climb out of in the first place. If you choose to remove a few pick-me-ups from your shelf, then you need to find something to fill that empty spot--a genre to replace the missing one, if you will. Otherwise, those desire novels will find their way right back on-and you will add more of them than you did before.

On Friday, I will conclude my series on Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling? with a very special book review.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Very interesting! I'm looking forward to the book reveiw.

  2. "To be honest, it disturbs me when Mr. Darcy is blamed as the romantic paragon of virtue that is turning girls' heads around the globe. Austen never intended that, Darcy certainly isn't a romantic paragon, and neither should be stigmatized for setting romantic fancies ablaze."


    It irritates me so much when people don't understand that.

    To the point where I always try to share around my theory that Mr Darcy is one of, if not the, least admirable of Austen's heroes and that in fact the reader, seeing through Elizabeth's eyes, is not meant to find much, if anything admirable in him until he has a change of heart a good three-quarters of the way into the book.

    Otherwise I would mention that recently I read a well-known trilogy of historical fiction/romance novels by Christian author recently and found it pretty awful--an emotional pressure cooker where the heroine(s) were falling in love with pagan men...I don't think it was healthy to read it, and I'm sorry I didn't ditch it earlier than I did (the books will be making a trip to eBay)...but here's the thing: I found the whole situation SO outre and incredible (really? A Christian girl finding something desirable in this pagan?) that it had little effect on me. Thank God, my affections had been trained to find this completely incomprehensible and off-putting.

    It's the subtle things that get you--even when you know what is good to desire, what is beauty the way God made it, what a truly worthy man looks like, you can still make idols in your heart when you look for satisfaction and security elsewhere than God. And that is not the fault of anyone but you.

    (That was a hypothetical 'you' ;)).

  3. So glad we agree about Mr. Darcy. ;) I just had to get out that little rant. :)
    I remember picking up a very popular book in a Christian romance series a couple of months ago (please excuse me, I was extremely bored) only to find myself rooting for one particular young man against the other. Honestly I'm not sure why, but I think it was because the author designed it to draw me in emotionally. I flipped to the end "just to see" and found that she was about to prolong the agony through a soon-to-be-released final novel. Suffice it to say, I learned my lesson. :)


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