In my room, hidden away in a shoe box are all that love letters that I wrote to my wife while we were dating. Most of them are embarrassing, bad poetry mixed with terrible sentimentality and lack of masculinity. If you wanted to make me blush then get some of these and post them on the web. However, there is one piece of paper I am proud of. After we got engaged, we spent a summer counseling kids at a camp out in Oregon. It was a good summer, but also a hard one. I was not ready to care for a woman. We were not married yet, which added to the tension. I was generally selfish and arrogant, which made me a hard fiance. As I worked through my own selfishness I decided to try to love her better. Naturally I went to I Corinthians 13, the love chapter. I wrote down on a sheet of paper each characteristic of love Paul mentions in verses 4-7. Then I wrote specific ways I would try to imitate that love in my relationship with my bride to be. Here are some examples:
Love is patient/long suffering-I will not interrupt her when she talks. I will not be upset when she is late to meet me. I will keep my hands off of her and wait patiently for marriage.
Love is not rude-I will speak kindly to her. I will not make fun of her or her views on things like movies. I will be attentive when I am around her family and respect them.
Love rejoices with the truth-I will rejoice when she is more righteous in an area than I am. When she shares what she learns from reading Scripture I will listen, assuming that God has something for me in what she is saying.
I listed at least ten specific things I would do for each characteristic of love that Paul mentions in I Corinthians 13:4-7. Many of them are trite, but they expressed a desire to be more godly. The total came to almost four pages of lined paper. At family worship this morning we read this passage. I was reminded of how wonderful and how painful that text is. Paul cuts us up with the Word.
Perhaps this Valentine’s Day you should take some time and examine how well you are loving those around you. How are you treating your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends? Make a list of all those traits Paul mentions, patience, kindness, not irritated/easily provoked, not seeking your own, bearing all things, etc. Then list some specific ways you would like to change. Ten per trait is too many. My exuberance got the better of me when I was sitting in my cabin nineteen years ago. Now I realize how hard it is to improve in one area, much less ten. So list one specific way you would like to be more patient. One way would should stop rejoicing in iniquity/wrongdoing. One way you should stop being puffed up. Keep the list somewhere you can look at it, perhaps in your Bible or journal. Pray over it. Work at it. It will not make you spiritual overnight. It is not going to taste as good as chocolate or smell as good as that dinner you are planning for your wife or look as good as what you will wear this evening. But it may be the best thing you can do this Valentine’s Day for those you love.