Happy Valentine’s Day

I’m not a big holiday guy. Growing up, my family didn’t make a big deal of anything beyond Christmas and Easter. Even birthdays were relatively subdued events, with some cake and a few presents, family members only.

When you get married, your perspective on things like holidays and special occasions, by necessity, changes. I married into a family with a very expansive view of what days on the calendar merited recognition, and how much effort was necessary to adequately celebrate them. I discovered holidays I never knew existed, and learned that certain days I’d heretofore observed only in passing were serious business indeed.

Take Valentine’s Day, for instance. A holiday I’d previously celebrated by passing out a few punched-paper pictures of little squirrels wearing t-shirts inscribed with the words, “Nuts About You,” or a handful of tooth-breaking candy hearts similarly inscribed with odd phrases like “Hubba Hubba” and “O U Kid,” was now a matter of grave import. The tranquility of my married life was at stake if I messed this up.

What I didn’t understand, at first, was how important the symbology of this day was and is to my wife. In her eyes, it wasn’t merely a commercial vehicle for boosting sales of greeting cards, candy, and flowers. It was the one day of the year specifically devoted to reaffirming our love for each other. If I brushed it off, it sent a very strong message that I wasn’t taking our mutual affection seriously. It would be like sending an arrow through her heart, and not Cupid’s Arrow of Love.

Of course, Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day of the year she expects me to tangibly express my love for her. That’s an every day thing.

Not at the top of my class.

To put it in context, my wife is a teacher descended from a long line of teachers. Saying “I love you” to her every day is part of the daily classwork. Valentine’s Day is a semester exam, which checks to see if I’ve really been sitting in class staring out the window and shooting spitballs instead of studying.

Studying her. Paying attention to what she needs. Learning what I have to do to help her be the incredible person God wants her to be. Learning to give to her generously and unselfishly.

It’s right and proper to devote a day to pondering the meaning of love and reaffirming our commitment to those dear to us. Our culture often leads us to believe that love is something magical that just happens–something fun and giddy and ultimately random. It happens when it happens, and if you’re lucky, it will happen to you. That’s far from being the whole story.

Love is hard. Love is not for the faint of heart. It runs counter to our nature. We are creatures devoted to ensuring our own survival and pursuing our own interests. Love is about putting somebody else first, at all costs. It is the antithesis of selfishness.

Now, it’s time to stop writing and let my lovely wife know how much she means to me.

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