There are many reactions to Valentine’s Day, some quite cynical. It is yet another commercial holiday where the price of greeting cards, chocolates and flowers are at least doubled, and people lavish their lovers with words that seem so very trite… But are they trite? Some say they don’t “buy into” Valentine’s Day because we should be expressing love for our partners all throughout the year… But do we?
Expressing love can be one of the greatest challenges we face, but doing so brings great rewards. Admittedly, I’ve “bombed” in this area, despite being something of a romantic. I’ve learned a thing or two, however, that I would like to offer.
Firstly, expressing love will take effort that must often supersede emotions. Emotions come and go, and chances are you think your spouse is a real (fill in the blank) at various intervals. If you’ve made a commitment to love, honour and cherish someone and are depending on your feelings to see you through… Oooh boy. There are some disappointments ahead, and I speak from experience.
Love is an action word. Still, some say they ‘love’, and it doesn’t make a difference. But what is ‘love’ to your partner? “Well, that’s not my personality!” some say about doing such and such’. Rubbish. That’s just being lazy. Would you rather the discomfort of learning about and executing what “love” is to your partner, or the discomfort of dealing with a partner who feels unloved? We can all take a bit of time each day to be genuinely affectionate, pay one compliment, help out, have sex (with an enthusiastic attitude), pick up a little gift… whatever. What does your partner respond to that you are so unwilling to do? Do that. If you don’t know – ask.
Oh sure. I grit my teeth sometimes. But if I wait for the moment that ‘feels’ right to be a person who loves and loves well, that moment will be fleeting. I want to be an excellent “lover” and for my partner to feel like he is the luckiest guy in the world (because, of course, he is!). I like that “good lover” woman in me, and I feel the presence and favour of God as I grow in this area of my life.
Secondly, our great Creator demonstrates irony in this: emotions follow our choices. In fact, research suggests that physical touch is very healthy as a key contributor to the natural release of oxytocin, a bonding hormone which helps manage stress and lowers blood pressure (see Kerstin Uväs-Moberg, M.D., Ph. D, The Oxytocin Factor) Also, expressing appreciation can heal our brains! Kind words do as much for the one giving the appreciation as the person being appreciated (see Karl Lehman MD on this). There are also many scriptures describing ways to be kind and “build one another up” and “when you feel like it” does not accompany these. To steal a phrase from a commercial monster: “Just do it.” Or this – OBEY.
Obey? Heavy word. We tend to not like that one, especially where marriage in concerned. It conjures up all kinds of baggage for all kinds of reasons. Obedience to God, however, comes with a promise, and is a significant act of trust in our relationship with God. John chapters 13-15 reveal a lot about Jesus’ heart on this topic, and while he was not specifically referring to marriage here, I wonder if He knew that servanthood, mutual submission, expressing love would be, perhaps, most difficult for some of us to live out within marriage. After scrubbing the dirt off their smelly feet, Jesus tells his disciples:
“The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who (really) loves me; and whoever (really) loves me will be loved by My Father, and I (too) will love him and will show Myself to him” (John 14:21).
In John 15, He tells them that obedience to His commands is the way to abiding in His love (v10), experiencing His joy and having our joy be full (v11). His command? To love one another the way He has loved them (v12).
John refers to these words again, even declaring that the commands of God (to love as we have been loved by Him) are not burdensome, but give us victory and faith (1 John 5: 3-4).
I speak to myself more than anyone else, but I believe we should, as followers of Christ, be challenging one another to love, and love well – especially in our marriages. In this, we encourage one another toward true maturity (1 John 2: 5-11). To love is the greatest commandment, and how “they’ll” know we’re Christians after all (John 13:35).
Yes, Valentine’s Day is soppy and commercial, but if pink glittery doodads and cushy ‘stuffies’ make your honey glow – go for it. Greeting cards? Heck, let someone else write the words if you can’t. It’s about getting to know what is meaningful to your spouse, not about what seems trite or meaningful to you. In the healthiest relationships, both partners do this for one another, but often it takes one of the two to get the proverbial ball a-rolling (and the love and affection a-flowing).
Let’s express love every day of the year, but perhaps we should not be too quick to shun what the world looks to as the “love day,” if only to add God’s perspective on the subject. The Greatest Love has been shed abroad in our hearts, so how can we not be shining examples in the world of what it means to be good, even great, lovers? May God be with us as we love one another, especially the bump (or maybe the grump) under the covers on the other side of the bed. He who calls us is faithful. Love! The feelings will follow.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Jaylene Johnson is our ministry coordinator. In addition to songwriting, performing and her role with saint benedict’s table, Jaylene works as a side-player, substitute teacher and creative consultant. She also sits on the board of Manitoba Music.