As Christians, our greatest valued virtue is supposed to be love. So on this day of Hallmark cards and romantic mountain-tops and great expectations, I want to stop and reflect on what this love thing means in my life.
Valentine’s Day marks the 3-year anniversary of when my husband asked me for our first dance together. Only 3 years, you say? Yes, 3 years, marriage, two kids, and many other life changes. What can I say? When you know, you know.
Of course my husband and I went through the “falling in love” experience. Call me immature, call me childish, say I have watched too many Disney love story movies, but I am still there. I still get all kinds of excited when I see my husband’s truck pulling into the driveway. I still love the way he looks scruffy in his dirty work clothes. I get thrilled by the occasional times he peeks out from behind his manliness to talk to me about how he is really feeling about something. I still like to hold hands when we go out to dinner. Small compliments that he thinks are not a big deal keep me happy for days on end.
So there are the highs, like our first dates, our wedding, and all those warm fuzzy moments. And I cherish those. But there is also love not just as a feeling, but as a doing. And I have to say that when I think of examples of people in my life who make a choice to actively love, my husband is on the top of that list.
Currently, he manages an enormous construction site and a whole lot of workers. His alarm goes off at 4am everyone morning. He works all day, and spends a couple more hours on the road commuting. I know that when he finally walks in the door, he is exhausted. He usually walks in to an equally drained mom who has been home all day with two little ones, and is not only wanting a break, but also wanting some adult conversation.
I know that he would love to just go somewhere quiet, close the door, and go to sleep. I know he could really use some uninterrupted time in front of the television with a bag of Doritos. Instead, he changes out of his work clothes, and sits down on the floor, and builds blocks with his son. He shows little Theo how to hang up his tools, he puts puzzles together with him, he changes diapers and he feeds Remi mashed bananas and cereal. He listens to me talk, he carries laundry down the stairs, he listens to me talk some more, and sometimes if he knows I am on edge, he even cooks dinner so I don’t have to cook. I know he does not always feel full of gushy mushy sweetness as he does these things for us – he is not big on feelings, especially those kinds of feelings. But he does what is right and what is true, and that is what matters.
I believe that one of the rewards of trying to actively love in the way Jesus did, is that we do get to experience the warm fuzzy moments. But those moments don’t sustain us – only the decision to continue to actively love even in the absence of the warm fuzzies is sustainable.
And we can’t do that in our own strength, at least I know I can’t. I am someone who is constantly thinking about myself and my needs, my feelings and “where I am at” with everything. Then in my morning devotions, I read the 13th chapter of the gospel of John, where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, and commands them (and us) to do the same for one another. And I am harshly reminded of how far I often miss the mark. My husband shows me that love is a choice to serve the people we say we love. He also shows me that Jesus’ example of washing feet is not just an ideal we should talk about and romanticize, but is something we can choose to live out in the monotony of our every day lives.
So who are the examples in your life? We all have them. They are all the product of being in relationship with the Savior who steadily leads us away from self and toward the understanding of true love. Happy Valentine’s Day!