If you forgot Valentine’s Day, it’s not too late to move to Uzbekistan. Authorities in this central Asian country are trying to phase out holidays they consider foreign to their culture. In place of St. Valentine, they’re promoting Babur, a 16th century descendant of Genghis Khan whose birthday falls on February 14.
When you think of romance, doesn’t Genghis Khan come immediately to mind? It turns out, the feared Mongolian warrior may have been more a lady’s man than we knew. Geneticists say the 13th century emperor could be responsible for 16 million descendants living today. National Geographic calls him a “prolific lover.”
The people behind Valentine’s Day were much less connected to romance than Mr. Khan. “Valentine’s Day” is named for two early Christians–Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Both died for their faith. Neither was known for relationships with the opposite sex.
The first person to equate Valentine’s Day with romantic love was Geoffrey Chaucer. His Parlement of Foules, written in 1382, celebrated the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bomemia. Both were 14 years old. I’m not sure we want to encourage eighth graders to get married, but I appreciate Chaucer’s sentiment.
How does God want us to celebrate Valentine’s Day (assuming you don’t live in Uzbekistan)? His word instructs wives to “submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). “Submit” translates hypotasso, a Greek word that describes the voluntary decision to support a person for his benefit. In no sense does it suggest that the wife is inferior to her husband in any way. Rather, it reflects the husband’s great need for his wife’s encouragement and respect. Before he needs the affirmation of anyone else, he needs the support of his wife. Her choice to respect and encourage her husband is her greatest gift to him, on Valentine’s Day or any other.
In turn, husbands are to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). A wife’s great need is to know that she is her husband’s first love under Christ. Before she needs the commitment and affection of anyone else, she deserves to know that she comes first in her husband’s life. She should be more important to him than his work, ambitions, or any other priority. Such unconditional commitment is his greatest gift to her, on this day or any other.
I’m glad I don’t live in Uzbekistan today, for a variety of reasons. One is that they’re expecting a low of 2 degrees tonight. A more important reason is that Valentine’s Day affords me an annual opportunity to show Janet that she is my greatest gift and joy. I don’t know why she married me, but I’m grateful every single day that she did. And I renew my commitment to love and cherish her before all others, for all time.
If God has blessed you with someone to love, how will you make this holiday a holy day for them?