Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Remixed

Happy Valentine's Day!  I feel as though I should be sharing our treasured family traditions - perhaps something crafty, clever, nostalgic or at least a good recipe.  I'm so sorry to disappoint.  I don't have strong feelings about the holiday on either end of the spectrum, and each year, February 14th manifests itself differently around our home.

I do, however, possess some treasured books about the holiday (shocker).  From their pages, we found that St. Valentine's day is a combination of history, tradition, and myth, all mixed together and baked in the oven of capitalistic opportunity. Historically, it's believed that there were multiple Saint Valentines, and three were actually martyred for their faith on February 14th.  There are also beautiful myths telling of St. Valentine, while in prison, falling in love with and healing the jail keeper's daughter.  Notes of love were passed through the jail door, and the legend grew as it was passed through generations.

Our culture's current knowledge and celebration of Valentine's Day bears little resemblance to the holiday's original roots.  Romance, Hallmark cards, and expensive dinners at crowded restaurants have become the icons.  Ironically, most sit-coms on television this year depict couples who are rebelling against the "Valentine's Day rat race", and are contentedly choosing to stay at home.  Regardless of which viewpoint you hold, both stray far from the martyred Saints who suffered under oppressive Roman rule. Our perspective has changed, and we've forgotten the original intent for the day.  Culture changed the story - but it can't change the history.

Whether we like it or not, we're as immersed in our culture as a fish is in water.  We're often unaware of the powerful impact that our generation, as well pervious generations, has had on the lens through which we view marriage.  Marriage was originally created for great purpose. Far greater, I believe, than most of us would dare to hope.  Culture changed the story - but it can't change the history.

What would happen if I suspended my own ideas, hopes, dreams, and fears about marriage, and had the opportunity to view it through the eyes of its Creator? How would the shift in my perspective affect the lens through which I view my husband?  I believe that God holds my marriage in much higher esteem than I can begin to imagine - yes, even with the challenges, failures and disappointments that can arise, He sees it as holy.  

In the C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, Screwtape (a demon), writes letters to Wormwood (his nephew) educating him on how to secure the eternal damnation of "the patient."  
"Now comes the joke.  The enemy (God) described the married couple as 'one flesh.'  He did not say 'a happily married couple' or 'a couple who married because they were in love', but you can make the humans ignore that... humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of fear, affection, and desire which they call 'being in love' is the only thing that makes marriage happy or holy... In other words, humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as a result."  
How many of us have a distorted picture of marriage?  Remember the fish in water.  It can't possibly know it's wet.  So what is this water in which we're immersed?  Where have we been deceived?

A step to climbing out of the fish bowl and drying off...

God is far more concerned with my holiness than he is with my happiness.  

This is hard, but true, particularly if our hopes were hung on an idealistic picture of what marriage "should be."  The good news is that if (and when) marriage is hard, we should not despair. The Father is up to something, and if you believe in his promises, He is up to something good.  

The measure of a successful marriage is not happiness and lack of conflict - it's mutual selflessness and commitment.  

That's the bad news and the good news.  

More is required of me, but more is promised of Him.

So as we enjoy the Valentine's Day festivities, don't despair if yours is less than what you had hoped.  The Author of all hope has written the story, and the story isn't finished yet.  We don't know what plot twists may unfold as we forge ahead, but we do know that He is good. He cares deeply for His children, and He'll use anything, including disappointments and challenges in marriage, to draw us to Him.

As an aside... I don't think I'll ever look at a picture of the chubby-cheeked scantily-clad cupid again without wondering if I just caught a glimpse of Wormwood himself.

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