Last night I went to see the film Dear John with a few girlfriends here in Aberdeen. [Note: this post contains dialogue about the end of the movie] Though I certainly do not endorse the movie, it did leave me with many thoughts to contemplate and expose. [The following is heavily aided by a helpful resource called pluggedin.com (a focus on the family ministry). This link specializes in reviews of movies to help guide your family to make wise choices about that which we fill our mind.] It is important to analyze what we are watching and what worldviews we allow to influence us. Otherwise we will soon discover that the way we feel towards the end of a movie is not aligning with what we rationally believe about our God and his word.
1) Infatuation. Having been married almost two years now, I discovered myself recalling the immense feelings of emotion I had towards Shaun in our earlier days of courtship, engagement, and marriage. As we experience life together, our love is much more than a gush of emotion when we get the opportunity to see each other. It is a greater and deeper love, very different from infatuation. Last night our 8 month old woke up around 11pm covered in vomit and was crying past midnight due to his sickness. Shaun graciously warmed cloths for Augustine to get cleaned up, retrieved new clothes for him, cleaned out his bed, retrieved a pack and play from the storage room (4 flights of stairs below our flat) and managed to set it up as Augustine screamed. I coughed throughout the night keeping Shaun awake, yet when 7:30 rolled around and Augustine started crying again, Shaun rubbed my back and whispered in my ear asking whether or not I wanted him to get Augustine to be nursed. Within a few minutes of my approval, he brought Augustine and a cup of hot tea before his leave to a long day of school and work. Granted, this isn’t a normal evening for us (Augustine normally sleeps 12 hours when he isn’t sick), however, life inevitably brings difficult circumstances. It was good to experience the love of commitment last night when Shaun consistently denied himself to honor the vow he made to me on our wedding day (i.e. in sickness and in health). Sometimes infatuation focuses primarily on how another person makes you feel. Biblical love focuses on how to deny yourself for the other person. Infatuation will not last throughout the trying times of marriage. On the flip side, having been recently acquainted to parenthood, I realized how much I miss the feeling of infatuation. The contagious emotions expressed by John and Savannah should not diminish in marriage. God gave us marriage as a gift, and we should feel positive emotions about being with our husbands. It was good to be challenged to enjoy the highs of marriage to a wonderful, godly man instead of a mundane attitude, wherein I take my spouse for granted.
2) Moral. I was somewhat surprised by John’s attraction to Savannah’s moral life. It seems that our culture’s standard for goodness is in a continual process of decay. John questioned whether Savannah had any faults since she didn’t drink, smoke, or sleep around. However, “For a woman who says she doesn’t sleep around, Savannah is really sexual with John. In low-riding jeans and a revealing shirt, she throws herself onto him when the two meet at an airport. The two cuddle frequently, with Savannah in John’s lap, or the couple wrestling or lying on top of each other, kissing and caressing. And they do eventually have sex, too. As they undress each other we see his bare chest and her bra and panties. The camera zooms in on their torsos after the rest of her clothes come off. (Shadows and arms cover her breasts.) ”
One of the reasons for their strong tie of love was a direct manifestation of their sex life. God allowed sex to be a bonding experience within the confines of marriage. When pursued outside of this context, it can only have negative effects. It is no wonder that John is heartbroken to discover Savannah’s Dear John letter stating her engagement to another man.
3) Emotional Deceit. “One of the more frustrating elements of this film is Savannah’s emotional deceit. Rather than owning up to her feelings of loneliness and doubt about their relationship, she leads John on, not even giving him the dignity of a phone call to end their romance—yet she selfishly and naively persists in believing that he will still love and accept her friendship.” “After all, she had to devastate John. In tears herself, she spoke of being all alone during his deployments. She didn’t know what to do, she said, and she needed to feel needed! She said she “didn’t have a choice” but to abandon John because there was another man who needed her. And he wouldn’t leave in the name of duty. At one point Savannah howls at John, saying her life without him has no meaning and has became a “marathon.” That is, she all but says she had to cheat on him because he forced her to through his absence.” It is a normal response to want to be needed in a relationship. Savannah’s erred when she elevated this feeling as the center of her relationship and allowed it to guide her finding fulfillment elsewhere. She also allowed John to define her happiness. When he left for deployment she chose to not have any meaning apart from John, dwelling in self-pity and the victim role. She did have the option to choose to find other alternatives to give her meaning and happiness which could have positively fueled John in her letters while he was away.
Conclusion: “Romantically, Dear John is an inadvertent cautionary tale about the dangers of making any human being the center of one’s universe. Both John and Savannah are so engulfed by their love affair that little else seems to fulfill them. But as many a man and woman has discovered over the ages, no mere human can satisfy anyone’s every emotional need.
Savannah does seem to grow up a bit by story’s end. And maybe she even realizes that her decision to marry another man while John was serving his country was selfish and hurtful. Once she decides to marry, she sticks it out, even when her husband gets cancer. It’s at this point that many girls would rapidly backtrack and go back to the younger and stronger John. She doesn’t. And I can’t say enough good things about John through all of this. He’s selfless almost to a fault, and while I don’t know how wise it is for him to leave his heart resting in Savannah’s otherwise occupied hands, he certainly can’t be faulted for sacrificing financially to help her husband.”
I hope this helps you to see the difference between Hollywood’s love and Biblical love. I am not advocating that we only watch biblical movies, but rather that we analyze what we put into our minds to affirm the doctrine which could be easily swayed through an emotional tale.
Thanks for reading!