I’d like to talk to you about my favorite Hallmark Christmas movie, The Christmas Card. I hesitated to write about Christmas since we have not yet celebrated Thanksgiving, but then I remembered that the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” movie marathon begins each year on Halloween, so I think I’m in good company. Oh, and I won’t be offended if any of you holiday purists would like to save this article for your December reading.
The Christmas Card tells the heartwarming story of a soldier stationed in Afghanistan who receives a Christmas card from a small town charity project. The card becomes a lifeline for him and takes him to charming and hospitable Nevada City, California, on his next leave just in time for Christmas. Enter a classic Hallmark Channel love triangle with a predictable juxtaposition: girl must choose between long-time-nice-guy-city-slicker-boyfriend and mysterious-new-yes-ma’am-manly-man. In The Christmas Card, it’s Faith choosing between Paul—a wine broker with bad hair—and Cody—our kindhearted and studly soldier. We all know there’s no contest here.
Several years ago The Christmas Card was serendipitously on TV on Thanksgiving Day, so my family and I watched it. Why was this serendipitous? The character of Paul—yes, the one with the bad hair—and the obviousness that Faith should not choose him gave my family a personification of their feelings about the boyfriend I’d brought home for the holidays. Like Paul, he was a decent guy but a bit disengaged and very different from me. For these reasons and others, that this boyfriend and I were a mismatch was as clear to my family as the Hallmark viewer’s knowledge that the girl should always choose the masculine newcomer. My family told me as much—though they did so gently and expressed confidence in my ability to make a wise choice. I’d already begun to have a few concerns about this boyfriend myself, so my family’s confrontation simply forced me to face them head-on.
Up to this crisis point in my story, I’d been feeling like the heroine in my own Hallmark movie. All the necessary elements were present—holiday traditions, loving family, cozy fireplace, visiting boyfriend. As the reality of the decision before me sank in, one simple fact harshly reminded me that my life was in fact not a Hallmark movie: I had no Cody. While Faith had to choose between Paul and Cody, I had to choose between a decent-though-not-quite-perfect-for-me boyfriend and no boyfriend, a much more difficult choice. I could imagine a man who’d be a better fit for me—thanks, Hallmark—but there was no guy in my life who fit the bill, much less one in my immediate circle, conveniently around for the holidays in case I decided I needed a boyfriend upgrade.
Over the next six weeks I thought and prayed and talked to wise friends, and then I ended my relationship with this boyfriend. I knew it was a risk to forego “Paul” in hopes of finding “Cody” because the real world doesn’t deliver happy endings as frequently or as quickly as Hallmark—but I decided it was worth it. Almost three years later, my risk paid off in the appearance of my Cody—my husband, Greg. He is just as handsome, genuinely goodhearted, and amazing as Cody—and even more so because he is a real person. I’m so thankful that I didn’t allow my immediate desire to have a boyfriend keep me in a mediocre relationship that would have cost me my wonderful husband down the road.
I don’t believe that if we’re simply willing to wait long enough, every circumstance will end happily. Life is complex and messy and hard. However, I do believe that many areas of our lives—relationships, career, spirituality—remain less than what they could be because they go unchallenged. Good enough supplants best. This principle is applicable to every person in every stage of life, but I’m thinking specifically of the girls I’ve mentored over the past years, most of whom are now ages 18 to 25. They are going to college, dating, getting their first “real” jobs, getting married, and moving across the country. I hope that they’ll have the courage to ask hard questions, take risks, refuse to settle, and live with a little ambiguity.
By the way, those who have a relationship with God through Jesus (John 14:6) will receive the ultimate happy ending—heaven (Revelation 21)—as well as numerous earthly blessings (Psalm 31:19), like peace (Galatians 5:22), comfort in hard times (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and answers to prayer (Luke 18:1-8). God even promises to give wisdom to those who ask Him for it (James 1:5), so we can be confident that we don’t have to navigate difficult decisions alone (Matthew 28:20). Maybe life isn’t a Hallmark movie, but with God it can be even better.