Confession: I’m not a fan of reality TV.
Yes, I know these shows are super popular and some of them are fairly clever. The UK-based “Farmer wants a Wife” has even become an international sensation, with spin-offs in 24 countries, including Sweden, France, Australia, Slovakia, Lithuania and Norway. (Apparently, the CW made its own version in 2008, but unfortunately I don’t remember seeing commercials for it. #bummer). And I realize that millions of people watch them, so they must have some redeeming qualities. So maybe before I dismiss them completely, I should try to figure out why I don’t like them.
My family’s lack of cable TV could be the problem. Maybe if I were able to watch the real versions of shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Say “Yes” to the Dress I would find them more compelling. But for some reason, the “off-brand” versions on basic cable just don’t cut it for me.
Maybe some reality shows are just too “real” for me. Take What Not to Wear, for example. Some poor, unfashionable soul is “nominated” by friends and family to get a wardrobe makeover. With the help of fashion experts, this person is transformed from hopelessly dull to unbelievably stylish in less than an hour. At the end, they are confident, chic, and ready to take on the world. And you’re probably wondering what I could possibly have against a show like that. Because maybe What Not to Wear hits a little too close to home…
Or maybe some shows are just plain silly. Don’t believe me? Look at Bridezillas. Yes, I realize that these women are under tremendous stress (planning a wedding seems akin to running a small country) and being continually filmed probably adds to the pressure. But intentionally becoming the wicked witch of the white dress? Who does that?! And what’s worse is that men are willing to marry these women despite their appearing on a show called Bridezillas! Someone please explain to me how that is not THE most major “red flag” of all! Bridezillas is silly. I rest my case.
Okay, okay, enough with the ranting. Though these are all valid points, if I am honest with myself, none of them is the actual reason behind my anti-reality-show sentiments. Because if I am being completely candid, the real underlying problem is this:
Reality shows remind me of what I don’t have… especially in the relationship category.
Now I know you are probably thinking, “Steffi, do you want a farmer who is looking for love?” or “Steffi, are you jealous of Bridezilla?!” or (quite possibly worst of all) “Steffi, are you going to start wearing pastel-colored short overalls again?!” The answers are no, no, and (maybe) no. But they aren’t entirely off. Let me explain.
I’ve never been much of a dreamer, but my whole life I’ve always assumed that I would date, get married and have a family. And I’ve trusted that God would fulfill this in His way and time. (I’ve even blogged about it–surprise!) Recently, I’ve seen Him do exactly that in many peoples’ lives. In fact, all but a few of my closest friends are married or are headed in that direction. And every time I check my Facebook, I notice another friend has gotten hitched (often when I didn’t even realize they had started dating—whoops.) I am so very happy for all these people, and I wish them all the best with what God clearly has for them. And in the meantime, I will simply keep waiting on God to carry out His plan. That’s been my outlook for the last few years: Trust that the Lord has someone for me, and that He’ll bring him along at the right time.
Until yesterday, that is. It was the early afternoon, and I was heading from my apartment to downtown Krakow. During my ten-minute walk down this very long street (appropriately named “Ulica Długa”, which is Polish for “Long Street”), I found myself thinking again about my singleness and when my “day” would come. (Unfortunately, these thoughts are especially common here because Długa happens to be Krakow’s wedding district. I’ve counted at least 12 wedding dress stores, 8 shoe boutiques, 6 flower stores, and even a random place to buy fancy, old-fashioned hats). So as I was walking down the długa Długa and asking God yet again how to be faithful until He brings my guy along, a quiet thought pierced my heart:
“What if I never bring him along, Steffi? Would I be enough for you?”
Forgetting my mission to get to the city, I stopped dead in my tracks. This was a moment of spiritual de-ja-vu. I’d heard a question like this from God before, right before I found out that I didn’t get the Fulbright three years ago. Surely I was just remembering that experience. So I resumed my walking—until it came again:
“What if singleness is my plan for you? Would you still praise Me then?”
I stopped again, conviction shooting like ice water through my veins. And in that instant, I understood a very difficult truth: I had put my hope in God’s promised blessings rather than in God Himself. And in the process, I fell headlong into that ancient but deadly sin of idolatry.
But what exactly is idolatry? The word sounds foreign to our sophisticated, twenty-first century ears. The answer is simple. It means desiring or loving something more than God. Jimmy Needham, one of my favorite singers, puts it like this:
“Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol.”
Our hearts can turn anything—even good things like family, service, or school—into idols when we give them the attention, love or glory that only belongs to God. What’s worse is that we do this all the time, usually without even realizing it. John Calvin was right when he called the human heart “an idol-making factory.” And when it comes to idols, God has a no-tolerance policy. After all, the First Commandment says “you shall have no other gods before Me.” He truly is a “jealous God.” But why? Because He is a tyrant? No, on the contrary: because He loves us. He is the only One who can satisfy our desires, hopes, and needs. He is the only Source of life, love, and joy. Our other “gods” will leave us empty and will make us slaves, but He comes to give “life to the full.” And so in His mercy, He pursues our hearts and tears down our idols, stopping at nothing until we are fully and entirely His.
He gently yet firmly reminded me of this yesterday during my walk down Długa. If my aim is for anything other than Him—relationship, family, career, anything—this is sin. But I am thankful that God chases down my wandering heart, and I pray He will make it more completely His.
Whew, that’s enough for today. I think I’ll go shopping. Anyone know where to buy a new pair of overalls? 😉