Valentine, How do I love thee?

By Rusty Wright

Valentine’s Day brings sweet expressions of romance.  “I love you” fills telephone lines, mailboxes, airwaves, personal ads and cybertraffic.  The price of flowers mysteriously rises in February.

How do you say, “I love you”?  Maybe a kind greeting in the morning or a phone call midday?  A nice lunch or dinner can convey the feeling.  So can a surprise love note planted on the pillow, taped inside the medicine cabinet, or tucked in the briefcase.

Will you marry me?

The day before I married Meg Korpi recently, I wanted to buy some nice flowers to brighten our B&B room for the wedding night.  I visited a large local variety store featuring quality flowers and purchased 18 lovely red roses. 

After checkout, I was surprised to spot Meg about fifty feet away speaking with a clerk.  Neither of us had known of the other’s plan to visit that store that morning.

Thinking quickly, I hid the roses behind my back and kept walking in her direction.  She likely had seen me.  I decided to walk up behind her, kiss her on the cheek, and ask her to marry me.  With a big smile and bright eyes, I proceeded toward her until I was about twenty feet away. 

She looked up and we made eye contact.  It wasn’t Meg.  (I am a bit nearsighted.  Meg is prettier.)


Instantly mobilizing my considerable diplomatic skills, cool head, incomparable boldness and lightning intellect, I made a sharp left and exited the store.  I had nearly kissed and proposed to the wrong woman.  My motives were honorable, but my analysis of the situation was flawed.

Postscript:  Meg enjoyed the flowers and we both enjoyed the honeymoon.  Actually, we really enjoyed the honeymoon and would like to apply to do that full time.  We still wonder whom to approach about approval for such an assignment.

Communication, so important in relationships, can be tricky.  60 Minutes veteran Mike Wallace, speaking through an interpreter, asked former Russian president Boris Yeltsin if he weren’t being a bit “thin skinned” in his sensitivity to media criticism.  The interpreter goofed, telling Yeltsin that Wallace had said, “You are a thick-skinned hippopotamus.”

You are so beautiful!

A speaker at a Miami meeting I attended told of efforts to translate a biblical love poem into the language of a Kenyan tribe.  The phrase, “Your beauty is like that of the lily,” did not connect with the rural East Africans, for whom lilies were mere cattle fodder.  Their culture highly esteemed the cow, not the flower.  On the advice of tribesmen, the translators rendered the romantic phrase: “You are a black cow in a herd of spotted cattle.”

The speaker relating this tale suggested I use that compliment on my new bride, without explanation.  Since Meg was returning to California from Philadelphia that evening, I left the cryptic greeting on our home answering machine.  A few hours later, my Miami phone rang.  Her first words:  “And you are a thick-skinned hippopotamus!”

How do I love you…?

Popular speaker Josh McDowell delineates three meanings of “I love you.”  “I love you if” and “I love you because” are based on performance or personality: “if you go out with me, have a good sense of humor or sleep with me; because you are attractive, intelligent, athletic.” 

Most people desire unconditional acceptance: “I love you period: even with your weaknesses, if you change or if someone better looking comes along.”  In its ultimate form, it is the love exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth when he said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

“Less conditional” might better describe the best love imperfect humans can manifest, even as a fruit of faith.  It is a giving attitude that can brighten any romance and undergird a successful relationship.

Secret of a long marriage…

One husband, asked the secret of his long marriage, replied, “It’s really quite simple.  We take time two evenings a week to go out to a nice restaurant.  A delicious dinner, some candlelight, soft music, a slow walk home.  … She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.”

This Valentine’s Day, may you and the one you love find genuine joy as you communicate your mutual love … together.

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents.  He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.

Copyright © 2001 Rusty Wright

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