Something to think about on Feb. 14th
One of the joys of working where I do is that we stop everything we are doing once a week in order to hear God's Word be shared by one of our colleagues. This morning one of our out-of-town staff members shared about Valentines Day. Like only a lawyer can do, the flow of the devotion was structured to create an airtight argument...
She started by telling us about the history of St. Valentine. Apparently the Roman government in the 3rd century outlawed marriage, because the desire of men to be at home with their sweethearts was getting in the way of their military campaigns. One brave bishop named Valentine continued to meet couples in secret in order to honor their desire to obey God in entering the sacrament of matrimony. He was eventually arrested and executed because he refused to renounce his faith.
Then she asked us if we knew what Roman god was affiliated with this holiday as it is currently celebrated. Of course, the answer is Eros, aka Cupid. She pointed out that Cupid's modus operandi is by shooting people in the heart, and when their heart is pierced, they fall in love with whatever they behold. Not exactly the epitome of romance, and not particularly conducive to real faithfulness in one's relationships. "When I'm not near the one I love, I love the one I'm near."
We absolutely cannot rely on this "pierced heart" syndrome to foster true love. She referred to this article by Chuck Colson, who cites author Sheldon Vanauken in debunking this idolatry of feelings. It's a great article; I'd recommend that you read the whole piece (it's short). Here's a little excerpt:
When Christian couples marry, they often say, "till death us do part." But what many unconsciously mean is, "till failing love do us part."In conclusion, however, we learned that there IS a pierced heart that we can - and indeed must - trust as the source of our love. "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." This heart was not pierced by Cupid's arrow, but by a spear. His love was not the result of being pierced, as is the "love" incited by Cupid's arrows; rather, it resulted in this piercing.
In reality, many people love their spouse, not as a person but as someone who evokes certain feelings. Their wedding vow was not so much to the person as to that feeling.
So when such people fall in love with someone else, they transfer that vow to the other person. And why not? says Vanauken, "If vows are nothing but feelings?"
Vanauken dubs these thrilling emotions "The Sanction of Eros." When John and Diana spoke of the goodness of their love, they were appealing to something higher than judgment, higher even than their own desires. But as Vanauken points out, "the sacred approval they felt could not possibly have come from [God,] whose disapproval of divorce is explicit in Scripture. It is Eros, the pagan god of lovers, who confers this sanction upon the worshippers at his altar."
So now when you see the red and white doily hearts of Valentines day, you can think of St. Valentine, who gave his life for the One who taught us to truly love. When you see the arrow shooting through a heart, you can remember that this often speaks of a "love" that does not last, but the spear that pierced Christ's heart teaches us what true love is.
Isn't that profound? I can say that because I didn't come up with it. :) But it sure struck a cord with me -- I have frequently been frustrated by the superficial nature of attraction in our culture, most recently when I watched the movie Alex & Emma. In the movie, Emma scoffs at what Alex considers to be true love, "love at first sight;" he spends most of the movie chasing it, while missing the more substantial - but less flashy - relationship open to him.
For this Valentines Day, my prayer is that we all -- marrieds and singles alike - can keep our eyes on the true source and reason for love.