"Let love be genuine...Outdo one another in showing honor." ~Romans 12:9-10
Long before meeting and dating my husband, there is one year I can remember celebrating Valentine's Day with a "boyfriend." It was my freshman year of high school, and only one word comes to mind when recollecting that day: ridiculous. Rather than a day for showing genuine thoughtfulness towards the one you cared about, it seemed to be a competition for who could bring the most obscene of balloon and flower displays. I, unfortunately, found myself in the middle of such a competition. I remember my awkward boyfriend showing up to school that morning with a hand-delivered bouquet of balloons, complete with red and pink balloons surrounding the featured heart-shaped balloon that had "I love you" plastered across the front. The bouquet was so large I spent the rest of the day having to shove myself into each classroom since what I was carrying couldn't fit through entryways. Everyone stared and commented, some sweet and some just as shocked as I was at the enormous display I was carrying around. At the time, at my naive and immature age, I thought such an extravagant display actually meant something. Sure, I was a little embarrassed, but such a gesture must have meant that he really wanted to declare is affection for me to the whole school!
Fast-forward over the many school years of singleness to my senior year of college. I spent the weekend at my then-boyfriend's house with his parents, and I remember that area of West Texas getting snow overnight on Valentine's Day. We were supposed to travel that day to visit friends, but the weather prevented us from being able to go anywhere. He woke me up by bringing me breakfast in bed that he and his parents worked on together: fresh coffee, poached eggs, and bacon. The gesture would not have been complete without my 5-month-old Nali puppy coming into the room with him to greet me. I was so moved by the thoughtfulness of everything he did. It was so simple and sweet, a little something he wanted to do since our original plans for the day had been cancelled. That was one of the first times he showed he was learning that I am a very simple girl, and some of the most simple gestures can mean the world...
And now I am married to him! I was reflecting on the ways in which he has shown his care the past four years since we first began dating, and all the times he has really shown thought in wanting to display just how he feels in a way that he knows I will enjoy. He became a student of me early on, and such a desire has challenged and encouraged me to do the same. We have an entire lifetime, however many days the Lord gives us, to continue learning one another. I spent much of Valentine's Day this year still feeling a little sick. I was still sneezing and coughing, wanting to do nothing but give in to my weakness and sleep the whole day. But I persevered and went to work and school anyway, only to come home feeling like I could collapse. When I arrived home after my 6-hour class on Thursday, my husband was not there. He showed up a few minutes after me with his hands full of grocery bags, and also revealed the exquisite bouquet of while tulips and roses he bought for me. He is so thoughtful and knows that my favorite flowers have always been white roses, so he said, "I would have just gotten you roses instead of a roses and tulips, but these were the nicest and most pure white roses I could find. I hope that's okay..." The bouquet was absolutely stunning, and as I have always done everytime he has given me roses, I carried them around with me everywhere I went in the house that night. What were all the grocery bags? He went and bought food to grill and prepare a wonderful meal for Valentine's Day, but when he saw that I wasn't feeling well, he decided to postpone the dinner. He, instead, asked me to go lie down on the couch (of course I brought the vase of flowers with me from the kitchen counter to the coffee table) and made me chicken noodle soup. He didn't get frustrated that his original plans for the evening were put on hold, but simply wanted to show his affection in whatever way would communicate his love to me that night.
This is a significant aspect of what loving one another is, and something I am still learning. Outdoing one another is not about other people seeing your actions. It's not about putting on a show with the hopes that others will look on and pat you on the back. Outdoing one another is about being a student of that one person the Lord has given you and asking yourself, "What is the one thing I can do today that will show him that I love him?" This is a question unique to each individual, and question that only those who know each other as one in Christ can answer. There is a time and place for celebrating in a big way with a nice dinner or night at the symphony, but then there are times when the most meaningful display of love for your spouse is by sharing an evening in over a hot bowl of soup. That was the most sweet thing he could have done for me that night, and he did just that. How gracious the Lord is in providing a husband that not only wants my best in all things, but one who finds great joy in putting my wants above his own. And nothing could be more challenging and encouraging than living with someone who regularly displays such selfless acts of love.