We are just days away from Valentine’s Day, that annual minefield over which all relationships, whether established or only getting started, must tread carefully. It’s an especially difficult time for people who have experienced the loss of a partner our spouse. Even people who make the brave choice to put themselves out there find that the other people also out there are often, well, out there.
For those in a relationship, different anxious questions fill these days. What gift will fill in the gaps between the words we use to express our feelings and the deeper feelings themselves? How much is too much to spend? Where should we eat?
You’d think we could simply ask the people in our lives these questions – what would you like me to get you? Where would you like to go? Yet experience shows that whether we ask these questions or are asked them ourselves, the answer is generally the same.
“I don’t care.”
For some people I am sure these are true statements. But unless my life and relationships have been dramatically different than yours, I think that those are involuntary, automatic responses spoken out of a desire to be seen as grateful, flexible, easy-going, and above all else not difficult. The truth is that people generally do care a great deal. We almost always do have a preference but hope our partners knows us well enough to get it right.
Sometimes we fear that caring too much about things which don’t matter much is a sign of our own pettiness. As Christians, too, we are called to a life of submission and to self-denial. How can we be true to that calling while still expressing our own wants to the people we care about or love?
The fact remains that, all these concerns aside, sometimes a restaurant has to get picked. Decisions must be made, and celebrations must take place. May this week and all weeks invite us to reflect on the people in our lives we care about most and the ways in which we can bring in more candor, more openness, and more trust day by day.
Grace and Peace,
Some readings for your consideration:
“I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing.”
1 Corinthians 15:10 (CEB)
“As thou wilt; what thou wilt; when thou wilt.”
Morning prayer of Thomas à Kempis
“Self-denial is not the same thing as self-contempt… self-denial declares that we are of infinite worth and shows us how to realize it…. self-love and self-denial are not in conflict. More than once Jesus made it quite clear that self-denial is the only sure way to love ourselves.”
from Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster