Last night my husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate 6 months of marriage, as well as the second anniversary of our first date. It was a very special Valentine’s Day to be sure! As we sat across from one another at dinner, he slid a folded piece of yellow notepad paper across the table. I opened it up to read a wonderful love letter expressing his commitment to me and repeating his vows.
Now before you say “blech” and then click the “exit” button on this window, I promise this isn’t going to be a mushy gushy tribute to Valentine’s Day and my husband. The reason I mention this letter is that there were two things in it that were challenging to me, not only in the way I view my faith but the way I view my marriage as well. On the day after celebrating a holiday about love, Ike provided me with a thoughtful perspective that I think is helpful for us all:
1. Love is a Lifelong Commitment, Not a One-time Promise: What follows is a quote from the letter. Those of you who know Ike are going to crack up. He’s the only one I know who would quote Soren Kierkegaard in a love letter:
“Kierkegaard once quoted the saying, ‘To promise is honorable, but to keep is hard.” And then commenting on a generation that he saw make a lot of promises that it didn’t keep, he added his own corrective: ‘A promise is only honorable if someone does the hard work of keeping it!’ As I began to think on this, I thought of the promise I made to you and to God on the day of our wedding. I thought of the way in which it becomes so easy to pat myself on the back for making the promise as if the making of the promise itself is somehow meritorious. But in fact, the failure to keep such a promise would void the promise altogether and it possibly would be better not to have made the promise in the first place. The promises I made that day are honorable if and only if I keep them every single day.”
The truth of his words cannot be understated. In a culture that no longer views promises as binding commitments–more like a solid “I’ll do my best”–we as Christians have the opportunity to stand out by letting our yeses be yeses. (Matt. 5:37) This is true of our marriages, our friendships, our work commitments, and most importantly our commitment to God. The sincerity of a one-time promise to follow Him will be found lacking if it’s not followed by a lifetime of allegiance.
*I should also add that Ike’s commitment to love me is in no way encouraged or eased by who I am as a person. I am not super lovable, somehow making his promise an easy one to keep. On the contrary, I’m often a VERY difficult person to love, but that’s what gives meaning to his promise. A promise means little when it requires little of us. The promises that we must work to keep are the promises that say the most about our commitment.
2. Love is a Lifestyle–Ike closed his letter with the following words:
“The experience of Valentine’s Day cannot be created in a single day if it is not cared for and nurtured throughout the rest of the year.”
As romantic as his words were, the first thing I thought as I read them was, “So it is with God!” No woman should have to wait an entire year to be romanced by her husband. While we can’t all afford to go out to nice restaurants every night of the week, the affection displayed on Valentine’s Day should not be a once-a-year event. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem incredibly sincere. It’s more like a payoff to make up for the other 364 days of mediocrity.
And so it is with God. A once-a-week or once-a-year trip to church is no substitute for a lifestyle of adoration. And like a faithful wife, God desires our constant affection. The hour or two we spend in church should be a natural continuation of all that you do to love Him the rest of the week.
So those are just two lessons that I was reminded of on Valentine’s Day. On a day that is often cliché and superficial, they helped me to reflect on love in a fruitful and edifying way.
And for those of you who don’t have an aversion to sappy-ness, I will close with the this final tidbit from our date: As I read the letter in the restaurant I started to cry, and of course our waitress walked up right at that moment. She looked at me and asked if I was alright. (Looking back, I think it would have been funny if I’d told her that Ike just broke up with me, just to see how she’d react!) But anyways, I told her that we just celebrated 6 months of marriage and that it was the 2 year anniversary of our first date, so Ike had written this beautiful love letter to me in honor of the day. Well apparently our waitress was a hopeless romantic because SHE began to cry. In fact, she had trouble keeping it together as she collected our plates. She kept saying how beautiful it was and how she loved romantic gestures like that. All the while her bottom lip continued to quiver. It was very sweet, but also very funny!