Thursday, February 14, 2008

He Loves Me -- He Loves Me Not


Are you familiar with the old superstitious practice of pulling petals off a flower while reciting with each one alternately, "He loves me; he loves me not; he loves me; he loves me not..."? Each new crush sends adolescent girls to the nearest field of flowers to discern the heart of her love. However, the same question is also asked by married women most often on Valentine's Day.

February 14 inevitably found my poor mother scrambling around at the last minute to purchase those one-page little Valentine cards with cute children, puppies, hearts, and quaint expressions of childish love for me to give out at school. Most of the time, each child just gave one card to each classmate so no one felt left out. However, one year -- third grade, I believe -- we each made a pocket out of two sheets of construction paper stapled together in the shape of a large heart. These were taped to the front of our desks and, at the appointed time, the children walked around the room leaving cards in the heart pockets of whomever they chose. Perhaps this was a more honest and democratic way of handling the expression of affection, but it surely made some of us feel pretty low. Children are notorious for gloating, and, of course, who could keep quiet when they had been given 25 Valentines?! As I made my way out to the car after school with my measly 5, I first felt the pain of not feeling loved.

Though the practice of giving little cards of sentiment faded out as we got older, I still asked those same questions every year: Am I loved and, if I so, how much? I am ashamed to admit that this practice even carried over into my marriage.

I was such a romantic growing up. I read romance novels, watched romantic movies, and couldn't wait to get married so I could have someone to cuddle up with at wiener roasts and receive Valentine gifts from on that holiday. Yet, although we cuddle on occasion, I found out very early on that my husband is not a romantic and marriage does not guarantee a heart full of Valentines.

One year he committed the unpardonable sin by not getting me anything. Now, it was excusable on that particular February 14th, seeing that he was snowbound in town because of a freak blizzard, but when he walked in the next day after work with nothing -- it wasn't Valentine's Day anymore --, that was unconscionable. How could he be so insensitive?!?! It was third grade all over again, only worse! I was married. I deserved a Valentine! He apologized profusely and I finally forgave him, but it still didn't make me feel any more loved.

Not long after that I took a very heated walk one evening down the dusty, dirt road behind our house fuming at the Lord for giving me to such an unromantic man. After the initial storm of tears and accusations, I finally had to admit that Les was never going to be a romantic man. From that point on, I never again expected anything on Valentine's Day. If he did get me something, I really appreciated it, but, if he didn't, that was fine, too. I was no longer bound by my own expectations, and was free to accept his love and recognize it in so many other more valuable ways. The fact that my weight has never gotten in the way of how he shows me affection is a definite plus. The way he works so hard and then has always jumped in to help out at home whenever I needed it is another a big plus. Then, every once in awhile, I get a Valentine, and it's not because he has to, but because he wants to.

There have been books written which tell us how to love others according to their "love language," but too often they just end up making the one reading them feel as though their spouse is not interpreting hers correctly. Yet, perhaps we should stop questioning whether or not we are having our need for love met according to our interpretation of it. Rather, we should interpret the love others have for us according to their language.

I love how Debi Pearl and Rebekah (Pearl) Anast handle this subject in the book Created to Be His Help Meet. They explain their theory that God made three different types of men, and how we may best relate to the specific one we are married to.

Wisdom is knowing what you "bought" when you married that man, and learning to adapt to him as he is, not as you want him to be. . . When you are married to a man who is steady and cautious, and you have a bit of the impatient romantic in you, you may not see his worth and readily honor him. . . Disappointment and unthankfulness can make you wearier than any amount of duties. . . This is why many disgruntled ladies married to Mr. Steady fall victim to hormonal imbalances, physical illness, or emotional problems.[1]

Earlier in this last quote she said, "The trials he seems to cause you are really your discontented responses to what you consider to be his shortcomings. If you didn't attempt to change him into something other than what God created him to be, he would not cause you any grief."[2]

BINGO!

This is a fantastic book for building strong and loving marriages. I really wish I had been able to read it 15 years ago when I was struggling with these things. However, reading those lines just reconfirmed what the Lord had been teaching me through all those years of empty heart pockets. I came to realize that my husband's love for me, though it was not spontaneous or bold, was actually very deep, as these ladies go on to point out:

Some women equate their husband's...lack of open passion as being unspiritual. His lack of spontaneity and open boldness may look like indifference to spiritual things. However, he is like deep, deep water. The very depth makes the movement almost imperceptible, but it is, nonetheless, very strong.[3]

So, even if you don't receive a Valentine today, stop and think of all the ways your sweetheart shows his love for you. Don't look for romantic ways, look for real, lasting, deep and abiding ways. Then, get on your knees and thank God for giving you to this man and ask for ways in which you may better show your love for him. I guarantee it will be a whole lot easier for both of you after you do.

[1] Debi Pearl. Created to Be His Help Meet. (Pleasantville, Tennesee: No Greater Joy Ministries, Inc., 2004), p. 76, 86, 87.
[2] Ibid., p. 87.
[3] Ibid.