Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pre-Valentines post

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 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."

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.

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, even in our churches (and, gasp! at seminary). 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.


Anonymous said...

As I think about what you wrote, I have one question. Does the recognition of Christ as the source of true love, invalidate the idea of "love" between a man and his wife? The evangelical church has responded that there is no such thing as romantic love, at least not in the way pagan/hollywood media portrays it and that genuine marriage is more about sanctification through Christ like sacrifice. And yet I can't help but wonder, if marriage, according to Ephesians 5 speaks of it as a picture/'shadow' pointing to the great Romance that awaits at the eschaton, should not there be some truth to the notion of genuine romanticism? Christ didn't just create/inaugurate the new age (Ridderbos) but He restores the fallen created order brought upon by the fall of Adam. That is why within the realm of the already/not-yet, Christians are still called to marry and to have children, so that as part of the community of the retored order (the church) we can show the world, that is still in the fallen order, what created order institutions like marriage was pointing to, the great eschaton. I refuse to believe that marriage is merely an exercise of personal sanctification, there must be genuine desire and pleasure that comes from it as well, since by it's very nature it was good, and in light of Christ's work, is good again to those who are united to Him. Of course I don't imply that you meant this because it was a great post.


JD said...

You know, your post has striking resemblances to Tim Keller's preaching :)

Great post, Molly.

Molly said...

Rich: thanks!

JB: I think you have a great point. I admit that I'm still a bit of a romantic at heart, in spite of all my "bravado," and I believe that the Bible fully affirms this point of view (cf. Song of Songs -- it's not primarily a metaphorical book!). But at the same time, I think we are way too prone to being blinded by the whole, well, "Love is blind" spirit in our culture, and we later get blindsided by the - sometimes grim - day-to-day reality that love calls us to. Look at the model of Christ -- he loves and pursues his bride passionately and deeply ... and eternally.

Justin: Thanks ... and like I said in the post, I didn't come up with this, though I'd love to be able to communicate like T.K. some day.