How do you define it? And what does it require of us?
Valentine’s Day is not a very big event for me. Before judging harshly my lack of romantic passion, please hear me out.
The annual celebration of love and romance is powerful. Its history extends back to ancient Rome. Legend has it that a Roman priest would sacrifice a goat and a dog. The goat hide would be stripped and used for lightly sprinkling blood on women who believed the tradition would make them more fertile. Much later the Roman Church declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until the Middle Ages that the first written Valentine was penned. Today, the romantic holiday is expected to generate more than $26 billion in sales. Admittedly, that is a ton of chocolates and roses. So, why do I not engage in this celebration of love?
My wife, Debby, and I celebrate our anniversary on January 26th. The annual event is marked with roses and dinner out. At times we will enjoy traveling for a weekend away. We have now entered our fiftieth year of marriage. So, for us, Valentine's celebration falls under the wedding anniversary cloud. We have moved past it. You’ll have to ask my wife to find out what she thinks of my romantic side (if it even exists!).
Yet, to be honest, our passion and love are in the context of much hard work and intentional commitment that started back in the early Seventies when we first started dating. I had just become a Christian and decided to memorize 1 Corinthians 13. I wanted to know love from the perspective of the gospel. I was intent on surrendering all my life to Christ. It was one of the most challenging times in my life. I thought passion was synonymous with love. Yet, the Apostle Paul was informing me that agape love--biblical love--was sacrifice, selflessness, other-oriented, hard work, endurance, and perseverance:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
The passage was easy to read and memorize, but it was difficult to apply to the developing romance. It would be fair to say that I learned a lot about prayer and seeking God for wisdom and grace during that season. There is no one better to learn about love than the one who demonstrated it through his humility and sacrifice.
Sure, I love the passion and romance that is part of my love for Debby. At the same time, I am so very thankful that my God has loved me in such a way that I am equipped and challenge to love him in return and to love a wonderful woman like Debby.
Chuck Garriott is the founder and Executive Director of Ministry to State.