RITE OF PASSAGE: A lesson in love
Valentine’s Day has come and gone. This year, I promised myself to make my wife’s holiday just right. The challenge was that my “right” and her “right” are never exactly . . . alike. Many of you men are nodding your heads in agreement, understanding my dilemma. You see, Cathy wants any day with a “t” in it to be Valentine’s Day: Tuesday, Thursday, Thanksgiving, Today, Tomorrow, Thaturday and Thunday.
Deep in my heart, I know that no one deserves a daily Valentine’s Day more than she does. If we lived in a perfect world, I would make that desire a reality. In the meantime, I had to face the challenge of making this year’s celebration more special than the average, everyday one. After all, I began this year with a deficit. My big mistake occurred on our anniversary, Dec. 20. I was sure that I had found her the perfect anniversary card. It was beautiful! Not only was it her favorite color, but it used all the right words and phrases. So why did she look so puzzled when she opened it?
Being dyslexic, I don’t always read things . . . right. Somehow, I missed the line inside that read, “We both wish you a happy anniversary.” My patient wife wanted to know who the other part of the “we” might be.
I knew I had to do something for Valentine’s Day that would make her forget the anniversary blunder. Immediately, I faced another problem. You see, my love language is giving. Giving a gift-any gift-to another person makes my heart sing. My wife says she has to be careful what she admires. Let’s say we look at clothes in a store. If she holds up a blouse and says, “I love this one,” I will go back when she is not looking and buy it. When she opens it up, it’s the wrong size. You see, my wife didn’t say, “I love this blouse in size extra-small.” She just said, “I love this one,” so I assumed that she loved . . . THAT ONE. Even after 33 years of marriage, I don’t always . . . get it right.
One day, when my sons were younger, a group of ladies cornered my youngest son and asked him, “How do you know that your daddy loves you?” Without hesitation he answered, “He wrestles with me!” I knew exactly what he meant. Many days when I came home from work, my boys and I held the World-wide Wrestling Championships. I even bought them Mexican Freedom Fighter masks so they could dress the part as we wallered on the living room floor. (“Waller” is a Missouri farm term that means “to roll around.” Usually, it refers to a hog wallering in the mud to cool off. )
During these bouts, my wife stood on the sidelines, calling, “Somebody is going to get hurt!” or “You’ll tear up the house!” Somehow, in the end, my boys always got the upper hand, and dad had to surrender to the world’s greatest wrestlers.
How did these young champions know that their dad loved them? I spent time with them. Much more than the wrestling itself, the time I took to wrestle with them showed them their place of importance in my life.
As I thought about this Valentine’s Day, I remembered that, just like my wrestling boys, Cathy’s love language is . . . time. This happens to be the most difficult gift for me to give. She wants me to sit beside her on the couch, look through an album of pictures with her, or cancel a speaking engagement to spend time together. As a missionary, I am wired to . . . go. How can be sitting beside a person be a gift, and how can looking through a family album be a meaningful gesture? I do not have to understand. I just have to know that love . . . gives.
As I planned her Valentine’s Day surprise this year, I realized that I don’t need to buy her a love gift . . . especially if it’s the wrong size. I don’t need to pick out the fanciest card, especially if it says, “from both of us.” I have concluded: the best possible way to tell my wife she will always be my Valentine is to spend time with her-the kind of time her heart has longed for . . . all along.
Ask your heavenly Father to help you learn your family’s love language. He understands. In fact, He provided a great example to follow. Remember? God so loved the world that He . . . gave.