February 14 is Valentines Day. Valentines ranks second only to Christmas in number of greeting cards used. I remember growing up, we would bring little valentine cards to school, addressed to each of our classmates with a little candy heart in it. It was an innocent little celebration with cupid and candy.
Do you know how this celebration got its start and why we call it Valentines Day In 3rd Century Rome, there was a priest named Valentine. Claudius was the Emperor of Rome. Claudius thought that single men made better soldiers than married men. So Claudius ordered that no young man could get married. Priest Valentine secretly performed marriages for young men anyway and when Claudius heard about it, he was furious and he ordered that Valentine be arrested and later he was executed for defying the Emperors decree.
Now jump forward a couple of hundred years to 496 A.D. The Pope is Galasius and during his time in office, he was concerned about a pagan festival that the people enjoyed very much — it was a pagan festival of fertility that they called Lupercus. The Church had done this before, they took a popular holiday with the people and connected it with a religious purpose — the Church did this with Christmas. So Pope Galasius looked for a suitable alternative to Lupercus in mid February and he happened upon the legend of Valentine who secretly married young men against the Emperors decree and declared that February 14 with be Valentines Day. The Pope had hoped that the pagan festival would be less carnal and more wholesome for Christians celebrations.
I think we all associate Valentines Day with celebrations of love. Love finds its fulfillment in marriage. Several years ago, I ran across a very helpful book on marriage and relationships and I highly recommend it to all young couples. The book is “Becoming One” by Don Merideth. The cover states that it is a “Practical no-nonsense advice for shaping your marriage to last.”
Who doesn’t want marriage to last? Over the years working with couples preparing for weddings, I never ran across a couple that planned that their marriage would last only a short time. I have also found that engaged couples are convinced that their love is different than all other loves - they discovered the real thing — they will not have any difficulties, their love will last a lifetime. Much of the advice we offer, really doesn’t impact them, that is for those other people who haven’t discovered what we have found.
Well, they do say, “Love is blind.” It was true for me and I am pretty sure it has been true for most everybody. In his book, “Becoming One”, Merideth describes stages of marriage, beginning with the “Honeymoon” stage. This may last for several months, but there is a day when reality sets in and just like little kittens, a time when eyes are opened and people see some of the chinks in his armor and the loose hem in her dress. We start to see the flaws. Resentments and bitterness can pile up. Sadly, in some of our cities, the number of marriage licenses applied for each year is matched with filings for divorce. What we need to communicate to people is that “Happy marriages are made, not found.” Marriage is work. Marriage is suppose to reflect the image of Christ and the Church. The Church is called the “Bride of Christ.” In this loving relationship, there is the reality of sin and the need for forgiveness. Marriage is not a 50 - 50 proposition. Marriage demands husbands and wives to give it their all, forsaking all others, committing, dedicating, serving each other. God offers a lot of marital advice in the Bible. We are sinners by nature. Sin is self-centered, selfish behavior that defies God’s commands. Husbands are selfish by nature. Wives are selfish by nature. When our selfish desires clash, there is conflict. “Oh, but if we were really in love our hearts would beat as one and we would not have conflict.” Read I Corinthians 13 to get God’s definition of love. Love is a verb, it is an action word. I Corinthians 13 is filled with the activities of love. But notice the end of the chapter where it says, “Love Never Fails!” You don’t fall out of love -- you stop loving. You stop doing acts of love. Soon the feelings of romance dry up, replaced by anger, bitterness, and betrayal. Instead of acts of love, there are acts of spite. Confusion enters -- “how can anyone who loves me treat me like this?” These bitter negative feelings then turn to indifference toward your partner. Perhaps you share your pain or concerns with a friend. If the friend is of the opposite sex, confusion enters -- because your friend understands you like no other. You begin to entertain romantic thoughts -- share deep thoughts and needs -- emotionally you are drawn closer and an affair “Just happens.” We need to follow God’s plan. Marriage has got to be honored and respected by all. We need to work on our relationships to make them stronger and healthier. Our goal is to have the same kind of relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the garden of Eden before the fall -- “they were naked and not ashamed.” Everything was out in the open, nothing was hidden and they accepted each other as they were -- God’s gift to each other. If you are struggling in a relationship -- please see me as soon as possible. You can love again. True love is not the activity of a cupid -- but God’s love in and through you.
In God’s Peace,