On the radio yesterday, the DJ quoted an interesting statistic in between tunes: on average, a man spends $156 on his sweetheart for Valentine’s Day. Between taking her out on a special date, flowers, a romantic Hallmark card, chocolate, and any other gifts, I guess it adds up! It’s no surprise that retailers make a marketing opportunity out of this holiday; so far, I’ve seen promotions for spa days and couple massages, hotel suite packages with chocolate and champagne, and fancy dinners. Valentine’s Day is a great occasion for expressing your love to your significant other, whether it’s taking your spouse out for a date night, writing a love letter, or giving them a thoughtful gift. I hope that couples will go the extra mile to do something special for each other, but I also hope that they won’t make the mistake of equating romance with cash flow.Love cannot be purchased in pink cellophane or dark chocolate, but it does come with a cost. It costs us not out of pocket, but out of our own pride and selfishness which love requires us to give up completely. Christ shows us that the price of love is being willing to give everything for the beloved—nothing is held back. 1 John 3:16 defines love simply, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
Jesus displayed this sacrificial quality of love for us on the cross, giving His very life for the ones He loves, even as they rejected and crucified Him. With no thought for Himself, He endured unthinkable physical, emotional, and spiritual pain for the benefit of His beloved.
As beautiful and powerful of a picture of love this is, I have to be honest: I don’t encounter life-or-death situations where I can prove my love to my husband every day. If love means laying down your life for another, then, in a literal sense, my marriage has never been faced with such a dramatic choice. We’ve never been held hostage or thrown ourselves in front of a bullet for love. I’d like to think that if it was ever a question of life and death, I would lay down my life for my husband. It’s easy to see what the right choice is when the stakes are so high, but when it comes to everyday decisions of putting my beloved before myself, I too often make the wrong choice.
Why is it so hard to let go of our own desires in arguments over the little things? You know what I’m talking about. Which movie we’re going to watch tonight, who’s going to take the trash out in the freezing cold, which colors we’re going to choose for the bedroom. What kind of milk to buy, which side of the bed we sleep on, and how we’re going to divide our budget. The list goes on and on, as we make fools of ourselves, self-righteously believing we’d give “anything” for our spouse all the while insisting that he/she hang the toilet paper roll the “right” way. We convince ourselves that we’d pay the highest price for the sake of love, just not the small price of our personal, momentary comfort.
In one of my favorite marriage books, The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason makes an interesting parallel between marriage and discipleship:
A marriage is not a joining of two worlds, but an abandoning of two worlds in order that one new one might be formed. In this sense, the call to be married bears compassion to Jesus’ advice to the rich young man to sell all his possessions and to follow Him. It is a vocation to total abandonment.
The cost of love mirrors the cost of discipleship; it requires a willingness to leave behind our wants and needs, preferences and personal comforts, for the sake of the Beloved. “Total abandonment” is a high calling, including not only the big ticket items but the little things as well, however, the cost of love is never wasted. As Mike Mason says, the result of two separate people giving everything up for each other is oneness: the goal of marriage. A marriage characterized by self-giving love, in the little things as well as the big things, begins to resemble the character of Christ and His selfless love for the world.
1 John 4:7 explains how loving each other pulls us deeper into the heart of God, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” This Valentine’s Day as you celebrate with your sweetheart, get creative! Go beyond roses and candy and try to find new ways to give of yourself, and be blessed together as you imitate the selfless love of the Savior.