“I think the holiday is total crap,” says a newly married 27-year-old man from Greenwich, Connecticut. Leslie, 28, a single editor at Glamour magazine in New York agrees. “I really hate it. I think I always hated it, even when I had a boyfriend. I always felt that it was really hokey. I’m not a teddy bears and roses kind of person.” “It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” says a 40-year-old married father of three from Nantucket. “There are a lot of things that run across your mind that you’d like to do, but with busy schedules, you don’t always have the time. But when you don’t do them, you feel guilty.”
A lot of people hate Valentine’s Day, as evidence from those snippets of an article published today at FoxNews. The man from Connecticut explains part of his disgust for the holiday. “All the responsibility for Valentine’s Day falls on the guy. If the guy and the girl both agree to do nothing, and the guy doesn’t come up with at least a flower and the girl doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t hold the same value. There’s no reciprocated holiday for the guy. Like how about a steak and porn night? Would that be so awful?” Little wonder that he requested to remain anonymous. He has vented to his wife about “one of those holidays exploited by the Hallmarks and De Beers” - but despite his best efforts he always gets sucked into the holiday. “Yeah, I rant to her, but I always wind up breaking down and getting her something. I’m a broken man. I don’t think I’ve ever done chocolates. I’ve done flowers and hotel rooms.” What does he get or hope to get from Valentine’s Day? “Nothing. Hopefully sex,” he said, laughing.
I don’t know that I like the chances of that marriage surviving for long. The selfishness of the man from Connecticut is startling. Shocking. He has made the day to be all about himself. He despises the day because he must give rather than receive.
But I can’t deny that I once felt much the same. I regarded Valentine’s Day as a corporate fabrication - a holiday created to bring relief to the late-winter retail blues. I thought it was a holiday created by Hallmark for the sole purpose of marketing and selling cards, gifts and chocolate. I did my duty as a husband, but did it with little passion and little motivation beyond doing what was expected of me. I don’t know that she was convinced.
But then I read my Bible.
What continues to surprise me about reactions towards Valentine’s Day, and the reactions of men in particular, is their hesitation to celebrate their wives. Valentine’s Day may be a fabricated holiday. There is nothing special about February 14 that dictates that we must lavish gifts and attention upon our wives. But when the opportunity presents itself, why would we hesitate?
If my Bible had a home page it would be somewhere in Proverbs. I love that book. I feel at home in that book. When I do not know what to read or when I have a few moments before church begins on Sunday, I turn to Proverbs. I try to spent a full month every year reading and studying Proverbs. I love and adore the book. That Solomon guy had some good things to say. What he said is as relevant to us today as it was to him three thousand years ago.
“Rejoice in the wife of your youth,” he said. “Be intoxicated always in her love.”
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.”
“House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”
King Lemuel, another contributor to Proverbs describes the infamous Proverbs 31 woman. He begins by saying, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”
A wife is a precious gift. A wife makes her husband look better. A wife makes her husband act better. Her excellence, her prudence crowns a husband. She fulfills him. Completes him. Makes him what he is. Makes him more than he is.
But it is not easy to be a wife. It is not easy to be a mother. It is especially difficult to be a stay-at-home mother as my wife is (and wants to be). Dorothy Patterson says it like this:
Much of the world would agree that being a housekeeper is acceptable as long as you are not caring for your own home; treating men with attentive devotion would also be right as long as the man is the boss in the office and not your husband; caring for children would even be deemed heroic service for which presidential awards could be given as long as the children are someone else’s and not your own.
A damning indictment of our society. It may even be an indictment of the church. Or your heart. Or mine. Wives and mothers are desperately underappreciated in our society. But the Bible does not tell us that society should bring them honor and praise. That task, which ought to be done with great joy, great sincerity and great frequency, falls to the husband and children.
Lemuel closes his reflection on the excellent wife in this way. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’” A wife, a mother desires and deserves praise from her husband and her children. Her great reward is not financial. It is something far deeper, far more meaningful. Her reward is the praise of those who love her most. It is the praise of those who see her at her best and at her worst. It is the praise of those who see her life of service. It is the praise of those for whom she has labored and sacrificed.
Valentine’s Day may be a contrived holiday. There is no objective reason that I should celebrate love in a special way today rather than yesterday or tomorrow. But if this is a day where people celebrate love, should not I, as a grateful husband, celebrate my wife? Should I not model to my children a love, a passion, a joy in my wife? Should I not reflect today on my intoxication with her love? Should I not praise, honor and bless her for being just who she is: a precious, beautiful, excellent gift from God?
Valentine’s Day provides me with a day to love and honor my wife. It provides me with a day to ensure I take the focus off myself and lavish it on my wife. Why would I want to refuse that opportunity?