Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday this year, which I thought was a little weird frankly. Valentine's Day is normally dedicated to romantic relationships, going out on dates, and receiving flowers...and we spent it at church.
Nowadays Valentine's Day doesn't hold a lot of meaning for me. After eleven years of marriage, I have a 25% chance of receiving flowers and pretty much no chance of actually going on a date (These statistics are based on actual historical data). This lack of celebration has nothing to do with any shortcomings in our relationship, we simply refuse to buy into the greeting card hype. Why wait two hours for a table at an over-crowded restaurant, just to say we went out for dinner on Valentine's Day? I would rather go out for lunch during the middle of the week and avoid the crowds altogether. Plus, with the kids in school we can save ourselves the extra money we would have paid for a sitter--I guess I'm more practical than romantic.
So Matt and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day, but there was a time that I was totally obsessed with the holiday. As a teenager, my mind was filled more with imaginary romantic notions than with reality. (Too many romance novels I guess.) Each year, as Valentine's Day approached, I would daydream about whichever boy I had a crush on, hoping that he would buy me flowers and declare his love for me. Yes, I have an overactive imagination...hello! Writer here!
So, after all those years of daydreaming about boys, I actually felt slightly uncomfortable sitting in church this morning. Somehow I had this idea that the holiday itself, with its traditional meaning, went against the purity of God's holiness. It's probably true that my teenage views of Valentine's Day do not line up with godliness, but if we consider this day a celebration of love, then God has everything to do with it.
My idea of love as a young girl was a superficial, warm and fuzzy kind of love. But real love, the kind that has kept me married for eleven years to the man that hardly ever buys me flowers, actually comes from God.
Agape love, the kind of love that is truly unconditional, and asks nothing in return, can only come from God Himself. As a human, I am selfish, and hopelessly flawed. When times get tough, my instinct is to cut and run. I think the current divorce rate (50-60%) provides sufficient evidence to back up my claim. The truth is, we love to love people who are nice to us and make us feel good. But when our husband works too much and doesn't spend time with us, or a friend gossips about us, that love feeling quickly diminishes.
The fickle nature of our emotions is the reason that we require God's help in love. His perfect love, demonstrated to us when He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins, is the only love that holds up under the stress of four kids, nearly constant separation, and debilitating illness. We cannot rely on our feelings to keep us grounded, but we can rely on the work of God's Spirit through us.
As children of God, we love Him because He first loved us. We demonstrate our love for God by obeying His commands, one of which is to love others as we love ourselves. The fact that we are commanded to love emphasizes the importance of choosing to love. True love is not based on feelings, otherwise it would be a temporary condition. Instead, we must choose to love. We love God, therefore, we choose to obey His command to love...our spouse, our parents, our neighbor.