February 15, 2013 8:40:20 AM
Today is Valentine's Day, the day we celebrate love with candy, jewelry, cards, flowers and romantic candlelight dinners.
Writing about love is a tricky thing, especially since my wife might read this column. Fortunately, I heard New Hope Baptist Church minister Jerry Young speak at the Jackson Rotary Club today. His topic was love and marriage. I can't put it any better than he did.
"A young man came to see me several years ago and told me he was leaving his wife. He told me he didn't want to, but he was no longer in love with his wife but instead had fallen in love with a young lady in his office. He asked me what I thought about it.
"I told him, first of all, wrong question! Wrong question! You are three children and fifteen years too late. People today think that love is a feeling. They think it has to do with their heart fluttering and excitement.
"Here's what happens. You have this image of this perfect person in your mind. And you marry this person and discover you didn't marry a perfect picture, you married an imperfect person.
You have to make a distinction between lust and love. Love is a commitment. You decide to love. You don't fall in love. I'm amazed to hear intelligent people tell me they fell in love with him or her. Shame on you. It's a choice you make. You choose who you love. You can fall into lust but you don't fall into love."
Amen brother Young. Having been married 18 years or so, I am still a beginner. I have talked to many people who have been married 50 years. I can't recall a single veteran telling me it was easy. Life is hard and full of challenges. If two people become one flesh their union reflects the imperfections of the flesh. A true marriage is by definition a mirror of the human struggle.
Real love is full of ebbs and flows, ups and downs, tears and laughter, lust and revulsion, adoration and detestation--often all in the same day!
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and familiarity breeds contempt. Without those fundamental truths where would we come up with country western lyrics? Such is the challenge of marriage. Who wants to be a member of a club that would have yourself as a member?
It breaks my heart to see people walk away from years of life together for greener pastures. The grass always seems greener on the other side.
When marital tension arise, I try to remember Matthew 7 versus 3-5, changing "brother" to "wife." Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your wife's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your wife, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your wife's eye."
My other piece of advice comes from my grandfather, Oliver Emmerich He said a good newspaperman needed the hide of a rhinoceros and the memory of an ostrich. A rhinoceros has a very tough hide and a ostrich has a terrible memory. Nothing will destroy a marriage like a grudge. That's good advice for marriage as well.
Our marriage is by no means perfect but I do remember the first time I realized Ginny and I might make it.
I had been a real jerk the night before. The next morning I apologized to Ginny, promising to never act like that again. She stared blankly at me. "What are you talking about?"
About a week later, Ginny came to me as I was having my morning coffee. "I am so sorry about last night," she said. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Don't just forgive and forget. Forget. Let it go. We always save our cruelest words for the ones we love the most. And we deliver them when we are at our worst. Punch the erase button. They mean nothing. Every morning is a new day. Move on.
Remember First Corinthians 13, versus 4-8: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Are you angry? Are you bitter? The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Does that sound like you? If not, then it is your faith that needs work, not your spouse. Don't try to change your spouse. Change your heart.
Marriage is a long haul. Nobody skips along. We crawl on our bloody hands and knees. Stay on the road and you will one day arrive.
I can well remember the complete adoration of my newlywed. Such simple, superficial, sweet emotions. On this Valentine's Day, Ginny and I will raise our glasses and toast that memory. But that is not love. That is just the start.