Today is Valentine’s Day, a day highlighted and promoted by every florist, candy shop, card producer, and teddy-bear manufacturer in the country. Without sounding like a Valentine’s Day scrooge, the underlying message is:
Roses are red, violets are blue;
If I don’t buy you something, my love is not true.
In case you’re wondering, I DID buy my wife flowers, candy and a teddy bear, even though she told me not to, because, as she said, “It’s just a waste of money.” Wow. I sure love my wife.
Almost every “chick-flick” I’ve watched with my wife (which is part of being a sacrificial husband) makes love appear to be all about one’s feelings. Rarely are love and marriage portrayed as commitments we make and actions we choose.
As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity,
“[Being in love] is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be `in love’ with someone else. `Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity; this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run; being in love was the explosion that started it.”
In a study on marriages conducted by psychologist Carol Dweck, couples who believe that love is “instant, perfect, perpetual compatibility, and `meant to be,’” have a much higher likelihood of divorce than couples who believe that “a good, lasting relationship comes from effort and from working through inevitable differences” (Mindset, 151-152).
When a couple says, “If we need to work at it, there’s something seriously wrong with our relationship,” they, in fact, have something seriously wrong with their relationship. Relationship researcher, John Gottman, says, “Every marriage demands an effort to keep it on the right track; there is a constant tension . . . between the forces that hold you together and those that can tear you apart” (ibid., 153).
Jesus gives the most practical marital instruction ever: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NIV). And, by the way, in case you’ve forgotten, your spouse is your friend.
So, buy the candy, flowers and teddy bear. That’s fine. But make sure you keep your commitments and choose actions of servanthood and sacrifice, for it is on that kind of love “that the engine of marriage is run.”