Some people snort in indignation anytime they hear a story that hints at romance between a husband and a wife. Doesn't marriage mean an end to romance? The recently released film, The Notebook, says, No.
On one level, it's easy to dismiss the film as a "big, gooey, over-the-top ...chick flick," as film critic Ann Hornaday called it. But the story, based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, teaches us a lot about what marriage can and should be.
In the film, an old man is seen reading a story of young love to an old woman suffering from Alzheimer's. In the story, Noah Calhoun, a working-class youth, does everything he can to win the heart of Allie Hamilton, the daughter of a well-to-do family. And the two fall in love, much to her parents' chagrin.
Then college, World War II, and Allie's engagement to another man nearly pull them apart -- nearly, but not quite. Soon it becomes clear that the old man is reading his own story to his beloved wife Allie. The message of the movie -- enduring married love -- can't be missed. "I've loved another with all my heart," he says, "and for me that is enough." Rather than leave her to go home, he tells his children, "Your mother is my home." And he stays with her to the end.
Now Noah and Allie aren't without faults. As we see in the film, before their marriage, while the two are apart, Noah has an affair, and later they consummate their marriage before they say, "I do." But they nonetheless demonstrate the reality of lasting married love -- something we, in an age of hooking up, cohabitation, and no-fault divorce, seem to have forgotten.
A group called Voice Behind, which seeks to show "the good, the true, and the beautiful" in the arts, quoted noted critic Steve Beard who wrote, "The movie is about enduring and passionate love that burns brightly with flames at the outset and ends up graduating to white-hot coals that last a lifetime."
Rather than fantasizing about romance, Nicholas Sparks based his story on reality: that is, the story of his wife's grandparents. "It was amazing to me," he said, "that after 60 years of marriage, these two were treating each other the same as my wife and me after 12 hours of marriage." Sparks's Christian faith informs his writing as well. THE NOTEBOOK, he said, is "a metaphor of God's love for us all. The theme is everlasting, unconditional love. It also goes into the sanctity of marriage and the beauty you can find in a loving relationship."
Yet today we find heterosexual romance scoffed at, while gay "marriage" is romanticized. Richard Cohen wrote in THE WASHINGTON POST that gays "seem to be among the last romantics." He says that "homosexuals provide the last best argument for marriage: [that is,] love and commitment" and that they may save the institution heterosexuals have trashed. Oh, my.
Well, if marriage needs to be saved -- and it does -- it will not be saved by sexual relationships in which childbearing, sexual fidelity, and permanence are impossible or optional. It will be saved by the kind of fruitful, faithful, and enduring -- even if imperfect -- love between a man and a woman, the kind depicted in the movie The Notebook.
Copyright © 2004 Prison Fellowship
BreakPoint with Chuck Colson is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on more than 1000 radio outlets nationwide, BreakPoint transcripts are also available on the Internet. BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship: 1856 Old Reston Avenue, Reston, VA 20190.