Valentine’s Day: a joyous occasion for some – a dreaded day of disappointment for others. When you are single, Valentine’s Day can be like salt in the wound, punctuating your alone-ness; so that you look forward to the day that you are married and always “have someone” on Valentine’s Day. But being married for Valentine’s Day doesn’t guarantee a Hallmark Channel love story. And so we come down to what really matters…
When my husband and I got married, the man who was going to preside over the ceremony, an Episcopal priest, required us to meet with him for some pre-wedding counseling. When you are young and foolish, you go to these things, thinking – this is just a formality. When you are older and wiser, you see God’s Hand was on you every step of the way. So that day, we settled into our meeting, feeling a bit complacent, our minds more on the wedding than the marriage. But Father Rudy had been married somewhere around thirty years; he did have real experience in this area and so after all the small talk was over, we got down to brass tacks.
“What is the single most important thing you must have for your marriage to succeed,” he asked. Was this a trick question? Too easy!
My dear fiance (now husband) was the first to pipe up, “Love!” He shot me a look of triumph, having nailed it right out of the gate.
“Trust!” I countered, and sat back in the chair, quite pleased with myself for having trumped him (this is another post altogether – duking it out in front of the priest!).
Imagine my surprise at Father Rudy’s response. “You’re both wrong”.
“It may be hard to imagine now, but there will be times in your marriage when you don’t ‘love’ each other and there may be times when don’t trust each other. What every marriage needs is commitment to keep working at it when love is exhausted and trust has disappeared.”
Zing! What a downer on the eve of our wedding – to talk of not feeling love or trust…before we even get to the altar! As I look back now, almost eighteen years later, I see that it was the best piece of marriage advice I have ever heard and I am so thankful for having heard it!
Love, love, love – it’s all we hear this time of year. People talk about feeling butterflies in their stomach, feeling warm and fuzzy, feeling their hearts skip a beat… But love is a decision. Love is work. Love is a commitment to someone else’s well-being. Often, love is NOT romantic; it is action that moves us beyond our momentary feelings of tiredness, irritability, frustration, hurt, selfishness… because love is doing the right thing, in spite of our circumstances: 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 (1 Cor 13:4-7). Love is intentional.
Many would say that the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, is one of the most overused passages in scriptures. True, it is well-used and well-loved by Christians and non-Christians alike, but with good reason! We must be sure not to miss the point of it, but rather must implement its wisdom, with purpose, in all of our relationships, with all people, at all times, so that we may be doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22). We should utilize these words as a sort of inventory, a checklist, a compass for when we get off course. Remembering that, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is what we were made for. To be in relationship with God. To be in relationship with people. To be interested in the welfare of others, rather than self. This is the high calling. This is the narrow way. This not the way of the world. This cannot be accomplished in our own strength, but it must be done. As Paul, reminds us, the stakes are high. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 1:1-3). But Jesus tells us that the reward is great. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:11-12) . So tomorrow I wish you love in action and joy in Him.