I’m not sure whether it is the third or fourth year in a row now, but what began as a budget move and continued as a way to avoid horrendous crowds has now become a Valentine’s Day tradition for Sara and me: going to our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. That’s about as fancy as we like to get on February 14th. Frankly, we couldn’t give two hoots about the day. But before you start to think that I am one of those vehemently opposed, I’m-so-against-Valentine’s-day-it-rules-my-life-just-as-if-I-am-celebrating-it people, I want to demonstrate clearly where I stand on the day.
It isn’t that I am against the alleged holiday, it’s just that it loses its lustre when it falls in this cluster of events:
11/27: Sara’s birthday
12/15: Our wedding anniversary
1/1: New Year’s Day
2/23: My birthday
We have plenty of occasions to celebrate and commemorate our love during that 3 month stretch. Valentine’s just doesn’t stack up. In general, however, I am very much in favor of being intentional about marking special occasions with a spouse. This one just isn’t all that special. Now if it fell in June or something, it might be a good excuse to get off our duffs and make sure that we were appreciating one another.
And that’s the real essence of Valentine’s day: to demonstrate that you appreciate your spouse or your beloved. My marriage has been chock full of occasions for grand gestures; it has been riddled to near saturation with Valentine’s Days. But this is because I was always playing catch-up. February 14ths have been pretty good for us, at times. Where I have dropped the ball is on the February 15ths of our relationship. On the May 3rds. The August 12ths. As it turns out, my marriage is much richer now not because I occasionally make some grand Say Anything radio gesture, but because I make an effort to show Sara that she is appreciated every day. Now, I do not always succeed, but I have come to realize that marriage isn’t always (in fact is rarely) about pink balloons and candy hearts. Most of the time, what makes Sara feel most appreciated is when I get up first thing in the morning and make sure that I am in prayer about my sinister heart. What makes her feel valued is when I take care of things that I say I am going to take care of without her having to ask. What makes her feel special is when I listen when she is speaking rather than being distracted by my phone or by the TV or by what scathingly brilliant remark I am going to make next.
Again, let me be clear: I am a fan of the romantic, there is no question. I like giant surprises, I like giving thoughtful gifts, I like serving her unbidden. But if I do not love her in the smallest of details, then all of these things are merely compensation for my failures to love her in actuality.
Christ’s love for us certainly took on the form of the grandiose: the grandest romantic gesture of all, in fact, still belongs to Him. However, He also continues to love us every day in the small things, too; in the petty, in the unworthy, in the seemingly insignificant. It is my belief, in fact, that He wants to be involved in everything we do. He wants to be involved when we are choosing what shoes to wear, when we are deciding on our meal, and when we are brushing our teeth (or forgetting to do so).
Psalm 139 says:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?”
This, as it turns out, is what love truly is. He sees us and knows us in every small detail. He is acquainted with all of our ways, and yet never leaves our side. Scripture says countless times that the Lord’s love is steadfast. It does not ever change or waver, regardless of whether my heart does (which it does). If I am to love my wife as Christ loved me, then absolutely I should commemorate special occasions. I should absolutely reach out and make profound gestures of my love for her, particularly when things are not going well. But I unequivocally cannot leave it at that. I must every day, in the smallest of actions, even actions that do not directly concern her, be loving her. Then, regardless of when Valentine’s Day falls, and regardless of what we do to celebrate, it will be certain to be wonderful.