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written by Joan Ko (via joankoart)
Forgive me for being a hater, but I did not enjoy “Blue Valentine.” Or more so, I did not enjoy the protagonists. Ryan Gosling plays Dean Pereira, a twenty something male who works at a moving company and Michelle Williams plays his future spouse, Cindy Heller Pereira, a twenty something college student who’s vow is to never end up being in a marriage that resembles her parents’: one that has lost all signs of love.
The two meet in unlikely circumstances and when Cindy becomes pregnant with a child who may or may not be Dean’s, Dean steps up as a father and husband by offering to marry Cindy. The movie goes back and forth between scenes of their present, crumbling marriage and their love-drunk, magical beginnings.
Cindy and Dean have known each other for, at the longest, a week, and their time together is spent making out and running around the city. While running around the city with a cute boy you just met is certainly exciting, it barely merits love. Dean is convinced that when he saw Cindy it was “love at first sight.”
Dean: You think you can love someone just by looking at ‘em? But the thing is, man, it’s like I felt like I knew her. You know? You ever get that feeling?
Marshall: Yeah, like, you’ve seen her before and you just know her. It’s a feeling. But, actually, you really don’t know her.
Dean: Yeah, I probably, I don’t, right? I felt like I did though.
For Dean, love is a physical attraction, a persistence in thought, and a convincing feeling of intimacy. Dean compliments Cindy on their first meeting, commenting that she looked like a super model and confesses to Marshall that he can not stop thinking about her. Dean also has a strong sense that he knows Cindy, just from one look. All of these things are fleeting perceptions based on Dean’s hopeful expectations of the situation; in other words, none of these definitions are based on truth.
1. LOVE IS MORE THAN PHYSICAL ATTRACTION
We see that God’s definition of love is different. For one thing, he does not base its foundation on physical appearance.
"But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
While God has his hand in the way that people look physically and thus, everyone is made beautiful in his sight (Genesis 1:27), he also describes physical beauty as something that will eventually fade away (Proverbs 31:30). What the LORD defines as beauty is the heart and spirit of a person. What lies behind the face? What is the intention that lies behind the action? These are opportunities that can reveal fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and mirror God’s image. Something that reflects the goodness and holiness of God; that is beauty.
2. LOVE IS MORE THAN A PERSISTANCE IN THOUGHT
Another justification that convinces Dean he is in love, is his constant thinking about Cindy. This is tricky, because while you certainly think a lot about the ones you love there is a line you can cross before it becomes excessive and obsessive.
The Greek word for lust is epithumia and is defined as an excessive, unrestrained, and disorderly desire. While there is nothing wrong with desiring someone sexually and emotionally, the biggest difference between love and lust is that love is sacrificial while lust is selfish. Love seeks to serve the other, lust seeks to serve itself.
Dean thinks about Cindy all the time, but he lets his idea of who Cindy is take place of getting to know who she is. Selfishness at its subtlest form. He has assumed who Cindy is without listening to her tell him herself. His security in this false idea of Cindy is what I suspect leads them into an emotionally abusive relationship. Dean is manipulative and twists Cindy’s words to always mean something she didn’t mean. He hears what he wants to hear rather than listening to what she is saying.
We see that God’s understanding of us is different. For one thing, He knows us wholly for He is the one who made us.
"O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.”
(Psalm 139: 1-4)
God knows us. From our most mundane thoughts to the number of hairs on our heads and the best part is, He loves every part of it. (Genesis 1:31)
If Dean is the guy who assumes who we are, makes us second guess our character, and doesn’t listen, God is the guy who knows every part of who we are, helps us discover more about our character than we thought we knew, and always listens to what we have to say. With God, we learn about our gifts, our strengths, our weaknesses, and gain a better sense of who we are. (Who better to learn from than the Creator himself?)
3. LOVE IS MORE THAN A FEELING.
Dean and Cindy’s marriage eventually fall apart, to no one’s surprise. Their love has puttered out and their marriage has become one where they can barely tolerate each other.
Cindy: How do you trust your feelings when they can just disappear like that?
Gramma: I think the only way you can find out is…to have the feeling. You’re a good person, honey. I think you have the right to say, “Yes, I do trust. I trust myself.”
What does that even mean? For a grandma, you have little wisdom.
Anyway, The movie tells a cautionary tale to its viewers about young love. How do you know who you’re supposed to be with if your feelings about them can change in 10 years? Gramma advices says that it’s better to trust yourself than your spouse’s love. But sometimes your feelings change without even meaning to. This kind of uncertainty can scare anyone away from marriage, but thank God that His definition of love is eternal.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13)
God is love himself (1 John 4:8) and He alone is eternal. He never changes. Nothing can sever or alter His love for us. (Romans 8:38-39) His love is actually so selfless that He gave up his sinless Son to die a sinner’s death on the cross so that our selfishness, lust, greed, and everything that makes us human can be forgiven. Our perfect God seeks to redeem characteristics of ourselves that hurt not only us but other people, so that we can exist with our holy Creator; all at the price of his Son’s life. Talk about sacrifice. And praise Him for that because as humans we know first hand how much it hurts when people disappoint us. How scary it is when someone we thought we knew, changes into someone we don’t even recognize. We know how painful it is to forgive when someone has misused our trust. I tell you the truth, God is not like that.
Dean and Cindy are an example of what our human love can become and what it ultimately ends up being. We are all capable of this. This movie is so compelling because it’s a story about a contemporary marriage; we’ve seen this before. In fact, some of may be currently living in it or are witnessing our parents go through it.
Redefine your definition of love and a great way to start is looking to the one who gives it freely; Jesus.