Valentine’s Day is upon us again.
Do you watch all the ads with the lovey dovey smiles and the flirtatious eyes, and try to remember what that felt like? Do you recall the giddiness of being young and fresh and so in love that even folding socks together was fun? Where even an accidental touch was electrifying and you called your love 100 times a day just to hear his voice?
If we’re not careful, love can become like a favorite shirt thoughtlessly tossed into the bottom of a drawer. Over time we tend to pile other things on top of it, passing it over from day to day without even thinking until some random thought, word or action sparks a reminder, and we realize that something very special is missing.
When I was in my early twenties, I began a cross-stitch project that I was sure would be a permanent focal point on my wall. It was a huge, colorful piece of country folk art, and it would have been beautiful. Today, six kids and fifty million ideas later, that piece of art has long been abandoned to the wasteland of forgotten projects.
Recently, my daughters and I were digging through my sewing box to find notions for their latest crafts. Sure enough, they found that old piece of material with the beautiful, but unfinished cross-section of a town, all neatly stitched in bright, bold colors. The finished portion would probably fill a 9×13 frame. They were awestruck. “Mom! This was sooo beautiful! Why would you leave it in a box?! Why don’t you finish it? How could you just put this down and walk away?”
How to explain that things came up? That I was too busy holding babies, doing laundry and feeding kids? And as time passed, my obligations only became greater, running kids from here to there. Other goals. Other plans. I never intended to set it aside for good. In the beginning, I only put it away during a busy time in my life. But then along came something else. And pretty soon, it was relegated to an old sewing box as I focused on making new curtains, pillows and bedspreads for our first house. And then along came the children and there were the sports and the play dates and school. There was always something that kept me from picking up that project.
I’m no longer interested.
Sadly, many marriages end up in the predicament. Sometimes we cast them aside, with every intention of getting back to them “later,” when life calms down. But then things don’t calm down, and our marriage becomes faded and dingy, lacking the bright color and excitement it once had.
Has our love dwindled?
It’s there; but it might be a little lethargic, perhaps suffering from a lack of oxygen.
It might do us good to breathe a little life back into our marriages – both body and soul.
While challenges in marriage can be complicated, the action of loving is not. Love is a verb. And we must take steps to love our spouses, no matter the condition of our relationship. A simple love offering can go a long way toward reviving that spark. Take some time this week to spend some special time together, sans distractions. And make that a habit. Talk. Listen. Pray together. Attend adoration together. And more than anything else, recognize the privilege you’ve been given by virtue of your sacred union.
There is no magic pill that will liven a marriage relationship. Love takes time. It takes sacrifice. And it takes commitment. Here are just six thoughts to keep in mind regarding this amazing sacrament that is marriage on this very special day. Perhaps contemplating the profound nature of your relationship will help to ignite the flame of desire and spark the passion of commitment:
You have been chosen and called, therefore, as husbands and wives to be for one another the living experiential sign and expression of God’s love by sharing with each other the gifts of uncompromising love, unconditional acceptance, ceaseless dedication, total fidelity, and untiring service. These are the signs of God’s love, and this is what makes God present in the Sacrament of Matrimony. — Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage: the Mystery of Faithful Love
How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father?!!! How wonderful the bond between two believers, with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service! They are both brethren and both fellow servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh. In fact, they are truly two in one flesh, and where the flesh is one, one is the spirit. — Tertullian, quoted in Familiaris Consortio, by Pope John Paul II
The basic error of mankind has been to assume that only two are needed for love; you and me, or society and me, or humanity and me. Really it takes three: self, other selves, and God; you, and me, and God. Love of self without love of God is selfishness; love of neighbor without love of God embraces only those who are pleasing to us, not those who are hateful…Duality in love is extinction through the exhaustion of self-giving. Love is triune or it dies. —Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married, p. 43
In spousal love, the body of the beloved assumes a unique charm as the vessel of this person’s soul, and also as embodying in a unique way the general charm and attraction which femininity has for man, or virility has for woman. Spousal love aspires to the bodily union as a specific fulfillment of the total union, as a unique, deep, mutual self-donation. — Dietrich von Hildebrand, Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy, p. 47
Romance is almost sure to die; love, however, does not have to die with it. Love is meant to mature, and it can do so if that readiness for sacrifice implied in the original self-giving of marital consent is alive or can be activiated. The idea that true love is prepared for sacrifice strikes a chord that perhaps our preaching needs to touch on more. As Pope John Paul II says, “It’s natural for the human heart to accept demands, even difficult ones, in the name of love for an ideal, and above all in the name of love for a person.— Cormac Burke, Covenanted Happiness, pg. 24
Matrimony crushes selfishness, first of all, because it merges individuals into a corporate life in which neither lives for self but for the other; it crushes selfishness also because the very permanence of marriage is destructive of those fleeting infatuations, which are born with the moment and die with it; it destroys selfishness, furthermore, because the mutual love of husband and wife takes them out of themselves into the incarnation of their mutual love, their other selves, their children; and finally it narrows selfishness because the rearing of children demands sacrifice, without which, like unwatered flowers, they wilt and die.— Archbishop Fulton Sheen, The Cross and the Beatitudes, p. 41-42
Do not forget that true love sets no conditions. It does not calculate or complain, but simply loves. – Saint John Paul II, Jubilee of Youth