There are so many reasons to hate Valentine’s Day. It’s too much pressure; it’s too commercialized; the stores jack up the price on roses. Plus you can never get a decent restaurant reservation. That’s all true.
For the Kids?
At the gym yesterday I was talking with a group of women — who all agreed that Valentines Day is “just for the kids.” They were wearily swapping tales about paper valentines and candy hearts, more items in the never-ending ToDo list of motherhood. I nodded, because I understand. After all, I raised two daughters. But I also groaned inside.
Why must everything we do be “for the kids”? Doesn’t grown-up love deserve it’s own moment, it’s own little snuggle, so to speak? Why must Valentines Day be taken over by SpongeBob and Disney princesses? (Please mentally update on my behalf — it’s easy to lose touch with childhood icons once the kids grow up.)
Maybe my attitude is shaped by preaching incarnation for a couple of decades now. Stay with me for a moment. If we celebrate Love made flesh in Jesus Christ, surely we can celebrate love made flesh between two loving partners.
I’m speaking from my own experience here, and I understand that other people have different perspectives. But to me the face of love is my husband’s face. What’s wrong with a day to revel in that love? To delight in delectable things — the taste of chocolate, the scent of flowers, the feeling of a lover’s lips? That whole package may be as close as we’ll get to the Kingdom of God, at least until trumpets usher us to the Other Side.
I’m with the guy in Proverbs: There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden.
I won’t get too politically correct about that last phrase. I assume that sometimes the maiden has her way with the man. Let’s let the poet make a point.
The Reduction of Romance
All around us, love is reduced to the romantic gesture. It frustrates me that The Bachelor franchise has taught a whole generation that champagne and roses and limousines are the enduring symbols of romance. All the bathing suit footage gives the impression that sex can be trivialized into titillation. Even worse, that titillation only occurs between unusually good-looking people — and the couples are always the opposite sex.
Love is more complicated than grand romantic gestures and exotic locations. It’s also simpler. More complicated because love involves human choice and human free will. Simpler because love doesn’t involve lip injections, perfect pectoral muscles, or a designer wardrobe.
Models of Sexual Love
I measure my marriage in decades. It’s not easy to keep a bond strong, year after year. Sometimes the spark needs a little rekindling. To me, Valentine’s Day is a nudge to put Love on the front burner for a moment.
Love is God’s greatest gift, and sexual love is one facet of that love. It follows that people of faith should feel free to make a strong stand for the inherent beauty– and sacredness– of the sexual aspect of long-term committed love.
Instead, churches are very uptight about sexual love. Rather than celebrating God’s good gift, churches argue about it. First are “the rules” as they interpret them (which is too often a prohibition against homosexuality). Second are the potential negative consequences of sexual behavior (teen pregnancy).
(The other side of the coin, I suppose, is the hyper-masculine male pastors who brag about their “hot wives.” This is not what I’m championing.)
I want to hold up a model of mutual, reciprocal, egalitarian, grown-up love that is deeply committed and goes the distance. I don’t care about the sex or gender of the two committed parties. I care about the integrity of their bond. I’m aware that sexual love is often the glue that holds two humans together.
It’s almost as if the church has forgotten why sexual love is so tempting and problematic in the first place.
Perhaps my perspective stems from the fact that I write about sexual abuse. That can be rather brutal and lead to despair. I appreciate the reminder that sexuality is at heart a good gift, that eros is a legitimate form of love, and that flowers and candy are small but legitimate ways to express love’s sweetness.
I hope you enjoy Valentine’s Day this year!