"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." – Ephesians 5:25
If there is any day that a Heartbeat editorial should address the topic of love in marriage it is most certainly today…on this Valentine's Day.
Now, how did this day come to be called Valentine's Day? As you likely already know it is connected to Saint Valentine (and even called St. Valentine's Day on occasion). Saint Valentine was a 3rd century Roman Christian and church leader who was known for his ministering to Christians who had faced persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. The records and traditions surrounding Valentine are sketchy, but there is general agreement that he was himself martyred around 270 A.D, during the reign of Claudius II. Because of the lack of clear records regarding Valentine, the Roman Catholic Church, in 1969, discontinued any liturgical veneration of him, though his name remains on its list of officially recognized saints.
The association of his name with love and romance may go back to a suggestion that he helped Christian couples wed. Or it may have been the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer who eternally linked Saint Valentine's Day to romance in a poem he wrote in 1375. There Chaucer wrote,
"For this was sent on Seynet Valentyne's day, when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate…"
But whatever the reason for this linking of his day in the church's calendar (February 14) with romance and love, it's here and today is the day.
As Gary Smalley wrote many years ago now, "Love is a Decision." We may think of it as a feeling…and it certainly is a feeling…but it is more than that. It is a decision. Feelings come and go. It is the decision to love – to commit oneself to another for life – that helps us survive the bumps along the way. If there are any marriages without some bumps, I have not yet learned of them. For most people I know are pretty much the same: having the best of intentions but often failing to connect with one another. If sin is described as "missing the mark" then there is plenty of sin in most marriages. But the commitment to love, the decision to love, is the glue that holds marriages together. It is that commitment that helps us see beyond the moment, beyond the argument, beyond the distance, beyond the "bad days", so as to wait for, work for, and then see the good days.
When I have overseen marriage ceremonies, I have consistently, at the ceremony's end, had the couple face the congregation, placed my hands upon their shoulders and then said, "Let us pray." In that prayer I have asked that they might be granted the greatest of blessings – that of "growing old with each other." Decisional love is what helps that happen.