Updated: Jan 14
Confession time. I like pop culture. There, I've said it. Three Christian friends of mine were surprised when I told them in December. And these are friends that I've had for five years, almost a decade and over 15 years. I can keep secrets. I purposely have omitted this little known fact about me with many Christian friends of mine because sadly I feared being judged for it. But something happened to me last year where I stopped caring about the judgement. I actually think my interest in pop culture makes me fun and more interesting.
The last book I started to read in 2022 and finished reading in early 2023 was True Love by Jennifer Lopez. Again, while reading it I only told three friends because well you know...(Can you tell I have a fear of people problem? Believe it or not I am working on it and have gotten much better, but clearly still have a ways to go).
The reason I chose to read this book is not because I am a huge Jennifer Lopez fan, but because I was a huge Bennifer fan back in the day (i.e. the 2002 & 2003 era). For those who have no idea what Bennifer is let me spill the tea (or well I'll let Wikipedia do that since it summarizes Bennifer so well). "Bennifer is a name given by the media to the high-profile relationship between American actor and filmmaker Ben Affleck and Latin entertainer Jennifer Lopez. The pair had a widely publicized 18-month romance from 2002 to 2004, and were engaged to be married. After their breakup, they maintained a friendship. They rekindled their romantic relationship in early 2021 and got married in July 2022. They have starred in two films together, Gigli (2003) and Jersey Girl (2004), and appeared in two music videos together, Jenny From The Block (2002) and Marry Me (Ballad Version) (2022)."
Photo by Mandy von Stahl
I'm a romantic by nature and when I watched an interview when they were dating and engaged (the first time) back in 2003 I was captivated by how sweet they were with each other and how genuinely in love they seemed to be. So naturally like a true Bennifer fan I was heartbroken when they split up in early 2004. And then in 2021 when they reconciled the whole world (media world, entertainment world and fans) freaked out! We were all tickled with delight. It felt like a dream come true. Anyway, I did some research into each actor separately and also as a couple. As part of my intrigue I read Jennifer's 2014 True Love memoir. In the book she only mentions Ben in like two sentences, but those two sentences are very telling. She describes how she married Marc Anthony (five months after she broke up with Ben Affleck) without her wound being healed and that Marc came into her life only a few days after Ben was out of the picture when she was at her loneliest and lowest point. In other words, Marc Anthony was the rebound.
In True Love she chronicles the months leading up to her and Marc mutually agreeing to end their seven year marriage and the two years after where she decided to go on her first (and only) world tour while she tried to heal and learn from her broken marriage. I was surprised that I found the book interesting to read. I wasn't sure if I was going to be bored or come out not liking it because I don't agree with a lot of her life choices. There are two things that stood out to me from her book. One that I respect and the other that I would challenge.
What I appreciated about Jennifer and her book.
True Love is not a gossip book where she tells stories of other people (famous or not) that make you cringe. She doesn't say a bad word about anyone, including her ex husband. You can tell she's been careful, has edited herself and in the acknowledgements she thanks Marc for reading her first draft. I have huge respect for this. When she writes about the demise of her marriage she does not go into specifics, but chooses to say how she needed to go on a journey to figure out why she made the choices that she did. She does write that she was hurt, but I never came away feeling that Marc or anyone else was the bad guy. There is no tone of that. It truly is a memoir of her journey before and after her divorce.
What I did not like about the book and the message that I would challenge.
Her message is all about learning to love herself. The title is True Love. She argues that true love is loving yourself first. I'm all for loving yourself. It's good to take care of you, to fill up your well so you can give water to others and to know that you were created by God with a purpose. However, her emphasis on loving oneself first is worldly and not Biblical. Throughout the pages of her memoir she writes about how important it is to be happy before anything else and that's contrary to the message of Jesus. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves. Die. To put others before our wants. To think of others more highly than ourselves. All this self love focus made me sad for her and for others who have bought into the lie that you are what matters most. As I read her book it was obvious that she struggles both with self-esteem and thinking highly of herself. I'm not trying to throw shade. Each of us battle these things in our own ways. It's part of the human condition, but choosing ourselves first will not help us overcome these struggles. It will only amplify our pride. It's when we think outside of us that we truly come alive and can achieve real joy, peace and health.
My takeaway after reading Jennifer's memoir is that in 2023 I want my love for God to go deeper. I want to love others better by becoming more selfless. This is true love.
Photo by Emmanuel Phaeton
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31