Feb. 14 is universally known as a day of love. Although the true origins of the day and the history of St. Valentine are muddled and mired in a mix of history and lore, the modern celebration is a day dedicated to love and romance.
I’d like to take a moment here to explore love – true love. There are several different types of love, such as sexual, infatuation, familial and such. What I want to look at is agape love – the kind of love shared between a husband and wife. This is the kind of love that is selfless and sacrificial.
There is an old saying that says if you think marriage is 50-50 you’re doing it wrong. Divorce is 50-50. Marriage is 100-100. If you really want to fully express your love and commitment, you must be in it 100 percent or not at all. When it seems that your spouse isn’t carrying their fair share of the weight, that’s the time to dig in and work harder, not back away. You never know, that 80 percent effort by your spouse just may be the 100 percent they have to give at the time. Sometimes you just have to give more than your fair share, but that’s what love is all about.
Many people will find love on Valentine’s Day. There will be marriage proposals, weddings, firsts dates and countless acts of romance between people with varying degrees of commitment.
Defining love is difficult. It’s many things to many people. If you really want to know what true love is, turn to the creator and author of love. It’s best described in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8A: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
People will fail, but love does not. Love is more than a feeling or an emotion. Feelings are fickle and fleet. They come and go. Love stays. Love is what keeps you with your spouse when the feeling of love has faded like the light of an extinguished candle and all that remains is a wisp of smoke from a dying ember. Love is what sees the beauty in a person when their hair is gray, their skin is wrinkled and sagging, when bags form under their eyes, their waistline has expanded and they’re tired and grumpy and griping about every little thing.
Love is making the bed, taking out the trash, washing the dishes, cleaning the toilet, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, doing the taxes, diapering babies, cleaning up puppy piddle, and all the other necessary unpleasantries of life without complaining.
OK, maybe there will be a little complaining – or even a lot – but the point is you do these things for the other person so they don’t have to. Love is sacrificial and committed. It may mean telling your golfing/hunting buddies no so you can say yes to shopping or the ballet. It may mean watching a romantic comedy instead of an action flick (or vice versa).
Love usually means biting your tongue, picking your battles, re-shuffling priorities, and delaying gratification in order to meet the needs of your spouse. This doesn’t mean you never get what you want out of the relationship, especially if this goes both ways. Look at is at as the Golden Rule in practice – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Guys, if you were willing to climb mountains, swim oceans, and slay dragons to win the love of your life, why would you bicker and get mad about the little things? We all do things that are annoying to other people, you’ve just got to learn to deal with it and move on.
I do need to interject something here. There are some things that people should not have to endure in the name of love. That includes abuse, adultery, and abandonment. You may still love the offender, but if that’s what you’re getting in return, that’s not love. You may choose to be forgiving and to help the other person through their problem, but if they’re unrepentant and not willing to change, the relationship is no longer based in love but on control and manipulation. That’s toxic, unhealthy, and not a relationship worth investing in.
I want to take a minute here to boast about my wife, Sandy. She is a godly woman who takes her vows seriously. When she committed her life to me “for better or worse and in sickness and in health,” neither of us had any idea exactly what that would mean.
For several of our 18 years together it has meant living at or below the poverty level and enduring a bankruptcy and a foreclosure. It’s meant caring for me through 10 years of chronic depression. It’s meant forgiving me and helping me recover from an addiction to pornography. It’s meant that she has had to be stronger, smarter and wiser than she ever anticipated being. She has been the one to repeatedly give more than 100 percent when I’ve been incapable of giving even half an effort.
Our life and our marriage are much better today and I have to give her most of the credit. I’ve seen a lot of marriages crumble under much less stress. Where we have had weakness, God has given us strength. Doubts have been erased by hope. Hope has been bolstered by faith. In faith, we have love.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1Corinthians 13:13.
So again I say, Happy Valentine’s Day!