Love and Romance in the Valley of Baca
With the popularity of Valentine’s Day, February is known more today as the month for love and romance, than the birthday of two famous presidents. While the birth of this interesting holiday remains a mixture of legend as much as history, there can be little doubt why it is such a celebrated day. Yes, it is a bonanza for card companies, candy makers, and florist shops. Yet what major holiday hasn’t experienced commercial enterprise catering to our practices, traditions, and desires? The value of Valentine’s Day, for those who acknowledge it, lies in its remembering and celebrating love and romance. Ah, but you say the day leaves out a good many people who for one reason or another have no love or romance to celebrate.
C.S. Lewis when still a bachelor, which he was most of his life, was asked in some of his correspondence if he had ever been in love, with the intimation that until he had, maybe he should refrain from talking about it. He wrote, “You ask me whether I have ever been in love. Fool as I am, I am not quite such a fool as all that. But if one is only to talk from first-hand experience on any subject, conversation would be a very poor business. But though I have no personal experience of the thing they call love, I have what is better the experience of Sappho, of Euripides, of Catullus, of Shakespeare, of Spenser, of Austen, of Bronte of, of anyone else I have read. We see through their eyes. And as the greater includes the less, the passion of a great mind includes all the qualities of the passion of a small one. Accordingly, we have every right to talk about it. I might add to Lewis’ words, we have every reason to celebrate it.
Everyone has in some way been touched by “love and romance. In almost all cases we are the product of it…at least in our parents. And if anyone has loved or been loved by another, this is the product of God’s love. “We love, because He first loved us. (I John 4:19). We “sour” on something like Valentine’s Day for any number of reasons: its commercialization, the lack of love or romance in our life, or because we believe we have no one to love now, and there is no one to love us back; or just because we think we don’t need some made-up holiday to inspire thoughts about love and romance. We believe that we can do that without help and in our own way.
Now before you think this is solely a defense of Valentine’s Day, it is not just that. It is a defense of the celebration of love and romance, and its necessity in our individual lives and in the life of our family. It is an encouragement to the appropriate expression of it by parents in the sight of their children. It is a statement about life as God designed it to be lived. Our God is a God of love and romance who has designed it into our very fabric. If there is a day in the year intended to remind us of love and romance, and help us celebrate it, then, glory be, let’s do it! But don’t relegate it to just one day of the year, or even fifty or a hundred.
As with Christmas or Easter, the meaning of Valentine’s Day can and should be celebrated every day of our lives. Unfortunately, there are days we do not feel like celebrating anything. On such days it is difficult to relate to the Apostle Paul’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always, or “In all things give thanks! Love and romance ooze with rejoicing and thankfulness. Still our experience is that they do not kindle each day as on our wedding day, or those days we were filled with love for our spouse, compelling us to romance them. Romance is a highly individualized expression of affection toward the one we love. It is the language of love expressed in all manner of communication, including and beyond the spoken word.
In any marriage love and romance fuel the relationship in the right direction; otherwise the tank eventually runs dry. They are servants not only to husband and wife bringing joy to their pilgrimage; their love and romance are servants to their children tutoring them about the essentials of life: what it means to be a man or a woman, a husband or a wife, a father or a mother. Just as the womb of the mother was a place of security, protection, and nourishment for the developing baby, so is the home for the growing child. Love and romance between father and mother are necessary ingredients to the child’s emotional health and maturing. Children know when and whether it is genuine, just as they hunger to see it and rest secure in it. They flourish under its umbrella, and they find satisfaction for their emotional needs.
But how is love and romance in a marriage sustained? Lewis wrote in his little classic, Mere Christianity: “Love, as distinct from “being in love is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced (in Christian marriages) by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love with someone else. “Being in love first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.
Children are a gift from God to a marriage, an expression of His grace. When a couple realizes the powerful impression upon their children that love and romance between them makes, they will be encouraged all the more to pursue it with year-round habit and not wait for the annual Valentine’s Day reminder.
God would not have woven it into our very being if he had not intended it to some magnificent purpose. There is the glimpse and more of love and romance in Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Ruth and Boaz, the Song of Songs; it is in the wooing of God toward His people throughout the Bible, the myriad expressions of Jesus the Bridegroom pursuing His Bride; it is in His brothers and sisters who pattern their marriages after the glorious relationship of Jesus with His church.
Psalm 84 acknowledges that in this world we are in a desert described by the Psalmist as the Valley of Baca. He has blessed many of us with a companion for the journey, and the Psalmist says, “As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs…They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion. Such is the nature and beauty of love and romance. They are springs in the desert for those couples who find strength and passion for their love in Him. Set your heart on such a pilgrimage!
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