There it is…that date blinking away up there…staring out at us like some monolithic creature demanding our attention…February 14th…Valentine’s Day.
I’ve never really been all that interested in this particular holiday, even during the times when I wasn’t checking the box marked ‘single.’ It is a completely made up commercial holiday created for the sole purpose of selling more greeting cards and cheap chocolates. It essentially devalues the martyrdom of a Saint, of whom there is little historical evidence to remotely support some of the legends associated with him (them in some accounts). It alternates between being crass or ridiculously sappy.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Couples go to incredible lengths to prove they can scale the peak of some romance mountain and end up with some (usually) good memories and a large bill. The next day rolls around and most go back to their routines; you know, the ones where they spend very little time together and what time they do spend is usually spent being hypercritical of their partner. I know, I know…that’s not how it happens for everyone, there are lots of happy couples and they don’t act like that….and so on…but I’m looking at the lowest common denominator here. The fact of the matter is, there is a large population of individuals that are in relationships where 98% of the time one party is doing all the work to keep things afloat. Valentine’s Day rolls around so the other party goes to great lengths to put on a show and give a bit of a song and dance to impress their partner and they figure that those few hours of happiness excuses them from putting in any additional real effort until the birthday/anniversary/Christmas rolls around. Yes I’m generalizing in a huge way….but every single person reading this immediately thought of a couple they know while reading this….maybe even themselves…
Back to why…why does this happen? In a very real sense it’s because there are so many people that have a complete and total misunderstanding of what love is. This is something that could take up page after page but I’ll try to be brief. Love is not some blinding emotion…it’s not the pleasure of physical contact…or the complete lack of mental faculties in the other’s presence….not a clever rhyme or a saccharine song…those things can accompany love but they are not its totality. Those things are all temporal and fickle…they tempt a decadent dance but deliver an accordion polka. These things are but fleeting sands crashing to the bottom of the hourglass and some spend so much time chasing the ephemera that they miss the substance that holds it all together.
Love is putting others’ needs before your own. It’s taking the time to truly serve the other person and experiencing what it feels like to bring them joy. Love does not demand its own way…that’s the simplest way I think I can break that down. I will never forget the advice my Grandmother gave to me about marriage and how to keep any committed relationship strong. She told me that if I want to really know a successful relationship I would have to always put my partner’s needs first, and they would have to put my needs first. By doing this, both of us would have our needs met and we would know the true heart of Love – servant-hood. Love is not a ruler….it does not boast and demand to be satisfied. It doesn’t proclaim its desires on the populace and entangle them in a string of questionable quandaries.
I don’t think I can really say this enough – to truly be in love with someone, you have to be willing to lay everything on the line for them and step into a completely foreign situation. You have to be ready to carry them when they can’t walk and to weep with them when joy is hidden. You have to be willing to give it all up, to put your life on the line….and when two people are in that kind of relationship they do it because they know that their partner is doing the same for them.
I’m providing an oversimplification I’m sure….and I know there are several of you that probably think I’m being too hard or that I’m unrealistic…and maybe I am to some extent…but I know that we were given an example of perfect love in action in the person of Jesus…and this is not the love I see people trying to reflect or represent in most Valentine’s Day actions.
So what am I really trying to say…I don’t know…maybe that we need to accept the fact that all of our attempts at the sport of romance are fleeting and temporary even with the best of intentions. Don’t wait for one minuscule day on the calendar to show your love for someone…show them every day. Take them to dinner because it’s Tuesday…bring home flowers tomorrow just because you can…plan that weekend getaway in June…skip the narcissism of Valentines altogether and focus on growing closer together through truly seeking intimacy with God and each other…be willing to put someone else above yourself.
This conversation can be so much deeper…it just takes the right kick in the heart to get started…