Back when I was a young and single, Valentine’s Day seemed like a cruel event of the calendar.
If you were a guy in a relationship, you ran around trying to do something spectacular to impress your special girl, but usually to the disappointment of both parties. Call me cynical or inept – or both -- but something always seemed to go wrong. Could it have had something to do with me always waiting until the last minute to find the perfect gift? Probably. If “Danger” is Austin Powers’ middle name, “Procrastination” would have to be mine.
Even today, all the commercials from Hallmark and the countless flower outlets don’t help to make it much easier for guys. In fact, they might even make matters worse. Every polished commercial only helps to raise my wife’s expectations of a grand, glorious and romantic day, expectations which I invariably don’t meet.
So, is Valentine’s Day as an evil plot contrived by commercial outlets? Whatever you think of it, there is some interesting history tied to the day.
Some attribute it to a Catholic bishop named Valentine. As the story goes, despite the Roman Empire declaring marriage for soldiers illegal, old “Val” continued to perform weddings for them until he was put to death for the crime.
Still others say it’s tied to the fact that a Greco-Roman festival devoted to fertility was outlawed by the Pope. In an effort to “Christianize” the festival that ran February 13-15th, they declared the 14th to be “Valentine’s Day.”
Whatever the case, according to Wikipedia, the day didn’t really get to be known as a day to celebrate romantic love until Geoffrey Chaucer’s "Parlement of Foules” in 1382.
Shockingly, a posting suggested that prior to 1832, “earlier links” had been “focused on sacrifice rather than romantic love.”
And hear I thought the definition of love had been lost closer to our own time! Not quite.
When we talk of “love” these days, most think “romance” but if this were the only kind, love would be impossible to sustain.
I’ll be honest. There are times I just don’t feel very loving. Like when my buttons are pushed or after I’ve had a bad day at work and come home to discover the home front is more like a war front. My kids have an amazing ability to save up the best news for the worst days. Have you ever had the $100 dollar calculator for school go missing, never to be seen again? Have you ever received the letter from the teacher about missed assignments?
Or, how about your spouse. Ever hear this one: “Honey the car started smoking on the way home; it’s actually been making a noise all week.”
How about the ladies out there? After a bad day, has your husband ever been insensitive, ignoring your burdens and instead pushed for “romance?” I’m guilty. This is usually when the fight starts.
Fortunately, I know that if our relationship was only based on the romance, it would have fallen apart shortly after it began. It also would have had no ability to survive the issues of two premature children or the multiple surgeries our oldest has endured. Romantic love is great; but it has no sustaining power. The love that sustains is sacrificial in nature. It’s the love that says we can fight and be mad but it doesn’t change who we are. It’s the love that says, I’m willing to give up part of who I am, in order to let you be who you are.
It’s also the hardest type of love. I have fought it on occasion, not wanting to lose who I am. But when I let go of what I want and work sacrificially for others, I gain more than what I’ve given up. Real love is enjoying something for what it is, not for what it gives you. When I look to gratify myself over serving others, it’s really me who loses.
So, maybe this Valentine’s Day, I can still give my wife some flowers and chocolate, but not in a spirit of expectation. No, this year it will be in gratitude, for the years of sacrifice she has to given to me and our children.