OK fellas, this week is the week. By the time you read this, men, you will have just a few days to make the appropriate arrangements for the loving gestures that you need. Valentine’s Day is upon us. For some, this day is more important than Christmas, or your anniversary or even her birthday. This is the holiday that was designed to allow you to tell her specifically just how much you love her.
But make sure you listen carefully as you consider what gift. One fellow who worked as a construction superintendent asked his wife what her favorite perfume was. She got excited that he was thinking about something more than candy as a Valentine’s Day gift. She told him that her favorite fragrance was “Sand and Sable”. Imagine her surprise when he shared with her that he had gone to the perfume counter of the local department store and asked for “Sand and Gravel”.
The question is, “How much do you love her?” Most of the time when asked what it means to love our mates, we men would generally say it means to buy her something she wants, take her somewhere she wants to go, or to do something for her she wants done. But isn’t true love more than “stuff?”
Obviously, the great illustration and example of love is not some Don Juan or Casanova, but rather the greatest love ever shown is the love of Jesus Christ in giving His own life for each of us. In fact, the definition of “love” itself is “giving of yourself for the highest good of the one you love.” Jesus came and lived as we live and walked where we walk and worked as we work, and then died a cruel and harsh death in our place, so we would not have to. He gave His own life in fulfillment of His own words: “…the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.” (John 15:13)
When I think of what exactly this means for me, it calls upon me to give of myself to my bride to lead her and to love her and to live with her in an understanding way. My loving her must be in accordance with the biblical characteristics of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. The 17 characteristics listed there convict even the most callous of hearts in their comprehensive description of what true love looks like in the flesh.
Most people, when asked, would agree with those characteristics. They would claim to love in those ways. But the reality is that for the most part those words are merely words. They bear no resemblance to real life. In fact, how many people do you know who are unhappy in their marriages and say to their mates, “You are just not meeting my needs?” This approach to love is self-centered and selfish and will never be satisfied.
In strong contrast to the self-centered approach that we often see, I came across a powerful demonstration of love that puts all of us to shame. When Dick Peterson’s wife, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he knew many challenges awaited his family. What he didn’t know was just how many lessons he would learn along the way about love and service in the name of Christ. He wrote: “The intruder invaded Elizabeth’s body, and by extension, mine. Her disease became my disease and made demands on our relationship we were ill-prepared to manage. As she moved from cane to walker to electric scooter and finally to a powered wheelchair, then lost use of her right hand, I had to adjust my life to fit her needs. Uninvited and unwelcome, this disease now forces us into a kind of sick reality game, leaving no choice but to follow the rules even as they change and become more restrictive.
“Every family divvies up chores, fairly or not so fairly. The MS dictates ours and it’s not at all fair, but we do have the choice to let it tear us apart or use it to strengthen our marriage bond as we face the adversity together. This reaches deeper than deciding who does what. It reaches to feelings, emotions and attitudes about what we do, what’s done to us, and who we are to ourselves and each other.
“We both pray for healing… God’s healing can be sneaky. We pray that Elizabeth will resume her old life; he wants her to assume a new life. We long for change on the outside; he desires change on the inside. We pray for what we want; he answers with what he knows we need.
“[God] has made me question whom it is I love. When I pray for healing, is it for Elizabeth? Or is it because her healing would make life so much easier for me? I challenge, ‘Aren’t you the God who heals? I love her and I want her well.’ But in the back of my mind, I know I also want her healed for me… Loving what I want for myself isn’t even on the list… God has given me an impossible command, but he has given me the power to obey it.
“The intruder still resides in our home, still presents us with new challenges each day, and still teaches us forceful lessons on submission, dependence, service and a love that endures all things and never fails — even when I fail. Strange as it may seem, that intruder is beginning to look more and more like a guest.”
OK, one question: How do you love your mate? As it meets your wants and needs, or as it meets hers/his?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected]