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Chick flicks and the wasted time of romance fiction

Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

This isn’t about you unless you are like I once was … trapped in the fictional world of romance novels and the falsely imaginative tales of strong men, beautiful women, and their steamy desires. This is a warning, and in a season of sappy Hallmark movies, may it not come off as condemning but reflective of how valuable our limited time truly is.

I spent hours of my 20s and 30s devouring stories that had similar plot lines and the predictable theme — unruly love tamed through satiating those desires with sex — or at least alluding to sex. What I didn’t do during those reading times was devote any interest to Bible study. While I used my free time to read worthless books, I could have studied God’s Book. And my biblical illiteracy proved where I had devoted my time.

When my teen daughter asked where in the Bible did it say that premarital sex is a sin, I couldn’t tell her. By then, I could have had a solid understanding of why God places boundaries around sex and showed how needless hurt and strife come from sexual sin. I could have shared how God’s design for marriage meant one man and one woman and how marriage could offer the most long-term satisfaction, but I lacked any foundation to build that biblical case. Instead, I had preferred fictitious love stories. Not helpful to my young daughter, nor to me.

Besides the wasted time of meaningless reading, I wasn’t building a true framework for what love really is. The false ideals in romance fiction didn’t help me develop the biblical character I needed to have so I could be a mother who could mentor or a wife who could truly honor one man — and not the dozens and dozens of false men that my mind conjured up by the fiction I routinely devoured. When the predictable plot lines always led to optimistic and emotionally satisfying endings, it didn’t equip me with the tools I needed to help me through life’s realistic storylines. I wasn’t learning what real optimism looked like nor was I receiving the emotional satisfaction I was seeking. I always needed another book to do that.

Romance novels routinely top The New York Times Best Sellers list. I used to be one of the 29 million readers of these deceptively seductive books. I checked them out for free at the public library, so it didn’t cost me. But the true expense was seen in how I could have used those precious hours differently. It’s time I will never have back.

While I whittled away a couple of decades of my life, one of my favorite Bible teachers, Beth Moore, had stacks of Bible commentaries on her kitchen table. She studied all the hours her children were in school. She attended Bible classes and taught Sunday School for years — and she knew what she was teaching because she’d invested so much time in Bible study. Beth is about my age and even though I stopped reading fiction nearly thirty years ago, I am nowhere near where I could have been if I had been studying my Bible instead. Not all of us will be Bible teachers, but we all should be spiritually equipped to be God’s light in our world.

One day we will give God an account of how we used our gift of time. While I know I’ve been forgiven for my wastefulness, it cost me in many ways. Perhaps in Heaven, I’ll see those missed opportunities. I couldn’t do what the Apostle Peter said we should: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). I was a Christian without any biblical investment. With no spiritual study, I stagnated, and God didn’t use me in ways He might have wanted to. Thankfully my story doesn’t end here. I’ve developed a yearning for God’s Word and not a day will be wasted again.

And yes, God is satisfying all the parts of my life — my marriage, family, and the ways He now uses my time — which involves helping a community full of kids. I am equipped to tell others about Christ and to share how easy it is to be distracted by the wrong things. Being spiritually bankrupt is easier in a culture that offers stimulating and empty alternatives. Invest your time wisely and you’ll reap rewards now and eternally. In a season of gift-giving, this is the most wondrous gift you can give yourself and in turn, give to others.

“Whatever keeps me from the Bible is my enemy however harmless it may appear to be” — AW Tozier.

Karen Farris saw the need to help underserved kids while serving in a youth ministry that gave her the opportunity to visit rural schools on the Olympic Peninsula. She now volunteers her time grant writing to bring resources to kids in need. She also shares stories of faith in action for those needing a dose of hope on her weekly blog, Friday

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