The internet will no doubt be covered by hearts, candy, balloons, and more today. Once again a Catholic holiday (holy-day) has been co-opted by our secular culture. I don't mind the pictures, actually. We have a lovely book about St. Valentine and I think he would be proud that people stop and do nice things for their loved ones today.
Where we get in trouble is when we believe that the absence of candy and balloons means an absence of love... or that love means warm and romantic feelings at all.
I looked up the definition of romantic/romance and it was funny. A lot of it talked about books, movies where characters fall in love. Even the verb definition said, "to invent or relate romances; indulge in fanciful or extravagant stories or daydreams." The definitions all seemed to be circular... romantic referenced romance which referenced romantically which then referenced romance.
If the dictionary is a bit confused about romance, it's no wonder we are with all the characters that surround us, both real and cultivated online.
It's no secret that my marriage is going through a rough patch. Can we still say patch if it's been three years? Maybe we're in a rough orchard. On the outside, I'm sure we look okay. We function extremely well as partners taking care of our home, our business, and our kids. We even do a good job taking care of each other, doing nice things for the other person.
It's the feelings that are missing, the warmth. And that's not surprising with 8+ months of abstinence... again. But since today seems to be about celebrating feelings, it's okay if you feel crummy. It's okay if your marriage is strained and the site of all the heart garlands and frosted cookies makes you feel a little bitter.
Let those feelings bubble up. Notice them. Name them if you can.
"I thought there'd be more sacramental grace. What does grace feel like?"
"How can this be the person God meant me to be with?"
"I love my family so much but I also feel trapped."
"I'm so lonely."
I've felt all manner of things these last three years and here's what I do. First, I share those feelings with God. He's my best friend. He wants to hear everything about my day and all my hopes and fears. I simply tell Him.
Next, I remind myself that love is about sacrifice. True love always has deep sacrifice. I think that's one of the reasons Frozen is so popular. It's one of the only movies that shows true sacrifice simply for the love of another. We're so drawn to stories about real sacrifice for love.
And last, I serve. I get up and clean the dishes. I make sure the towels are the way he likes them even if my heart feels cold. I remind him of an appointment even if I don't remember what flirting is like. I hold his hand every night when we pray because we serve God first and foremost.
I love my husband a great deal and he loves me. We don't know how to navigate romance in a world of abstinence, six babies, entrepreneurship, and our current major house projects but we know how to love each other. We serve each other when the feelings aren't there. That's real sacrifice and it's real love.
I have no idea if we'll figure out the feelings but I know we are honoring what God asked of us. My deepest desire is for Heaven and for sainthood and so I hope this is at least on the narrow road in that direction.
I'm praying for all of you who may be feeling left out or hurt this Valentine's Day. I feel you. Remember St. Valentine and his bravery. He fought hard for marriage and we certainly need more of that attitude in the world these days.
On a TOTALLY unrelated note... maybe slightly related since taking care of our bodies and our souls is a great way to honor our marriage... the Fit and Holy Challenge is back and this year it's happening over Lent!
It's a six week challenge that encourages you to pray, drink water, exercise, and connect with the Lord. Plus there's a sweet points tracker and who doesn't love a points tracker! There are awesome Catholic prizes each week although I've never won one and I still think this challenge is awesome!
I love this challenge and this year I super duper promise to not get pregnant so I'm going to work really hard to beat my personal record from past challenges!
If you want to join me, visit www.fitandholychallenge.com and sign up. Registration closes at midnight on Feb. 27th.