By Wendy Anne Clark © 2009
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13: 4-8a
As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s a good time to talk to our kids about what love truly is. Our culture focuses on love as a feeling—we fall in love like it’s a big, gaping hole—no choice involved. But the Bible teaches that love is associated more with our actions than our feelings and involves the choices that we make. When Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” he isn’t talking about warm, fuzzy feelings; he’s talking about our actions, our behaviors towards our enemies—the choices that we make in regards to them.
Even when our children are very young, we can begin to talk to them about what love really is, how to recognize it, and how to live it. For example, begin to talk to your kids about friendship love and what a good friend does, how to recognize a good friend, and how to be one. Was anyone a good friend to you at school today? What did he/she do that makes a good friend? Were you a good friend to someone at school today? What did you do to be a good friend? When your children meet up with someone who doesn’t behave as a good friend, talk about what your child should do differently and how to be a good friend even when others are not.
It’s also important to begin to talk to your kids about husband/wife love—not about romance but about love. When my girls were old enough to understand the conversation, I began talking to them about how their daddy is a good man and why I chose him as a husband and a father. What about your daddy makes him a good father? What are some things you love about your daddy? When Daddy asked me to marry him, I said “yes” because I knew he was a good man. He’s kind to everyone he meets, he treats his parents with love and respect, he likes to laugh and have fun, he’s a hard worker . . .
When my oldest daughter was about 10, she came home after a birthday party, talking about a boy she met there. “I think he will be a good husband some day,” she said. This was not a conversation based on romantic feelings, but on her thoughtful observations. “Why do you think so?” I asked. “Well, he’s very nice to everyone. There was one kid there that no one seemed to like, but this boy was still very kind to him and included him in everything we did. He’s very funny and likes to laugh, and he makes everyone around him feel like they have something important to say.” Insightful observations for a young girl to make.
I teach college English classes, and in the course of teaching, I’ve come across many young mothers who never thought about actually choosing a man as a good husband and father. They ended up with the man they did because they “fell in love,” and it never occurred to them that they had a choice about it. This is what our culture teaches through movies, books, music—it’s important that we talk about what love really is and what it is not. It’s important to teach our children how to really love and how to choose a life partner who also knows how to love.
One fun thing we like to do for Valentine’s Day is to collect all of the valentines that my children receive and spread them across the dining room table. Take any leftover valentines (or some construction paper hearts) and have your kids write out Bible passages about love. Spread those out among the other valentines. Put a clear, plastic tablecloth over the top, and leave it that way for at least a week. Each time you sit at the table read some of the names and pray for those people. Read some of the Scripture passages. Talk about things that each of you can do to love someone the next day. Shift the focus off of gushy romance and extravagant gifts, and onto real, thoughtful, acts of love.