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The thoughts of many will turn to love, true love, tomorrow on Valentine's Day. But what does true love look like? Well, don't look to Hollywood for an answer.
What do you think about when someone brings up the subject of great romance?
For some of us, our thouhts turn to Hollywood love stories: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Shrek and Fiona.
But are these relationships really worthy of being called great romances?
Consider: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton began their romance with an adulterous affair. They divorced their spouses and took new vows. But the great Liz-n-Dick romance sputtered out in just a decade.
Frank Sinatra dumped his wife to marry Ava Gardner, who had been twice married already. Needless to say, that didn't last.
And we all know what happened to Brangelina.
So why are we so disappointed when celebrity couples, or couples we know, throw in the towel? I think it may have something to do with what God intended when He created marriage: He designed it as a life-long commitment--a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman.
But today's culture, through novels, films, and TV shows, teaches that intense romantic feelings trump everything else.
And that is a recipe for unhappiness--for our spouses, our families, and for ourselves. Why? Because, as a Christian website called GotQuestions.org notes, according to the research, our brains can only sustain that intense 'in love' feeling for a maximum of two years. "Ideally, a couple has worked on deepening their love and commitment during that time so that," when the intense romantic feelings taper off, "a deeper love takes its place."
And that deeper love is a self-giving love. A love that desires the well-being of the other more than self-fulfillment. A love that mirrors the love Christ has for His Bride, the Church. It is not a love that needs to be fed by feelings.
Because, as GotQuestions.org notes, when the feelings fade--and they will--romance addicts start the search for someone else "who will induce the same euphoria."
Tomorrow some among us will celebrate Valentine's Day. Instead of looking to Hollywood for examples for romantic love, we should look to couples who exhibited true, self-giving love.
Take baseball star and devoted Christian Jackie Robinson, who credits his wife Rachel with helping him get through the vicious racism and threats when he became the first major league player to break the color barrier. Their long marriage lasted until Jackie's death.
And who could fail to be moved by the story of Isador and Ida Straus, who went down together when the Titanic sank? Ida refused to leave her husband behind when offered a place in Lifeboat Number 8. "Where you go, I go," she told her husband of more than 40 years. In a Bronx cemetery a tomb is dedicated to them. The inscription fittingly reads: "Many waters cannot quench love."
We can find stories of great love in the Bible. Ruth and Boaz come to mind, as does Jacob, who labored for seven long years for his beloved Rachel.
If we know couples who are deeply "in love" and want to marry, if they are well suited, we should help them make that love permanent--help them understand the difference between what Scripture teaches about love and the false messages of our culture.
And then we should direct them to church-run marriage preparation programs that will help them achieve, not a fleeting romance, but a lifetime of self-giving . . . in love.