It happens each February whether we like it or not.
Everywhere we look a huge, soul-exposing spotlight is focused intently on the often touchy subject of personal relationships. Retail stores turn pink overnight. Enormous stuffed animals and expensive chocolates appear on strategic shelves. Advertisements prominently feature flower bouquets and rings on fingers, along with endless assortments of fine jewelry.
And for those people who are currently enjoying a positive, affirming connection with a spouse or “significant other,” it’s a wonderful season of birds singing, clouds parting, sun shining, young deer galloping through meadows . . . OK, that last one may be a bit much.
For those of us living in the real world, we realize the cold, hard truth. Lasting, quality relationships usually hinge on one simple word: work. It takes an extreme amount of mutual effort for any relationship to not just barely survive, but to passionately thrive.
I was blessed to have grandparents who were married for 50 years. The siblings (my mother, her sisters and brothers) tell stories of growing up with grandpa and grandma that we grandchildren simply can’t imagine and refuse to believe. My grandmother, supposedly the strict disciplinarian, was the kindest, most gentle woman you could ever hope to meet. She loved God fervently, was a model of Christian character in her words and actions, and never raised her voice to we grandkids. Not a single time any of us can remember. It’s not that we radically misbehaved either, though I’m sure we had our moments. There was just something about being at “grandma’s house” that was special and demanded our respect.
The stories of my grandfather are even more legendary, especially from his times as a young adult in Muskogee, Okla. before he came to salvation in Christ. But again, to the grandchildren, they’re just far-fetched imaginary tales. The elderly man we knew was patient and full of wisdom. He loved God and his family without reservation and modeled Christian character for all to see.
The odd thing is I never remember my grandparents buying each other a single gift. I’m sure tokens of affection were given, even though they lived on a small, fixed income, but I don’t ever recall seeing birthday flowers, cards or anything else that drew my attention. In short, it seemed as if they didn’t have to buy each other’s love to stay committed.
Of course, gifts are a natural part of any relationship. My wife loves getting red roses any time of year. Most couples give mementos to each other as a tangible sign of their feelings for the other. But the moment relationships require lavish expressions of romance to keep the attention of the other, that bond grows weak and is in danger of rapid deterioration.
Jesus demonstrated it best by expressing His love through giving completely of Himself to us. He gave His life so we might live. Our best bet is to follow His example and lead a lifestyle of promoting others’ interests ahead of our own. True love isn’t so much revealed by physical gifts as it is the genuine gift from the heart demonstrated by our daily actions.
Jason Yarbrough is the pastor of Mars Hill Church and principal of Mars Hill Christian School, both in Fairfield. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.