Valentine’s Day: An Opportunity to Fail

dreamstimefree_163036Guys, you know what I’m talking about.

She has this all planned out. She has been planning her Valentine’s days since she was a little girl. The day begins with a full breakfast cooked to perfection. You leave for work with a look of gentle sadness in your eyes, knowing that you are leaving the gems of your life behind. She is pleasantly surprised to find a little love note in her purse from you. Yes, you did it again, a poem hand written by you that is perfectly in tune with her every heartbeat. She sighs gently to herself that she is the luckiest girl in the world.

You send her thoughtful texts from work reminding her that you know she is the most beautiful thing that God ever created. You instruct her to dress in something formal because there is a surprise date this evening to somewhere special. Right as she is finding the right dress, the doorbell rings. She answers it to find a delivery of the largest bouquet of roses she has ever seen. You sent a dozen for every year you’ve been married.

You arrive home looking fresh and relaxed after another day of killing it professionally. She is wholly secure in her financial future because of your great work ethic and careful planning just in case the worst happens. She looks radiant in her dress. You take one of the roses from the bouquet and with a deft hand you make a beautiful corsage on the spot that goes perfectly with her dress. You walk to the car holding hands as you drive to her favorite restaurant.

She is so surprised when the waiter beings you to a private table. You order for yourself and then show how carefully you have been studying her all these years by ordering what she would like as well. You check with her to be sure, but you were exactly right. As you sip champagne together you reminisce over all the great times you have had over the years. You tell her that when God made the world, he made her just right to be the perfect match for you.

You drive home holding hands in the car. When you arrive, you hurry over and open her door. When you go inside, you dim the lights and turn on her favorite romantic music. As you take her in your arms, she breaths a gentle prayer thanking God for such a wonderful husband. As the evening progresses, well, let’s just say it went well from there.

Not intimidating at all, right?

The real you wakes up on February 14th, nearly forgets to shave, hurries to work. Yells at the dog on the way out. Has a very stressful day at work. Rushes home and decides to fix that leaky faucet in the basement. After a long and exhausting day your head hits the pillow and you look into your dear wife’s eyes. Those hurt, angry eyes.

Crap, you forgot again. At least you weren’t away fishing this year.

None of us guys can live up to the Hallmark commercial. She won’t smile as big in real life as the girl in the Kay Jewelers commercial did. The fact is that only one word describes Valentines Day.

Intimidation!

We aren’t up to this. If she just liked sports more this would be easy. But no, she has dreams of romance and kindness. Less beer and more wine. What is a guy to do?

You have a couple of options. The worst one is to ignore the day. Sure it’s scary, but I promise she knows it’s coming. If you forget/ignore the day, she won’t. Minimal effort really is worth more than no effort at all.

Nearly as bad is a passing mention. “Happy Valentine’s Day honey” with a kiss on the cheek. She has dreams of being romanced and a simple well-wish will not cut it. You need to do more.

Some men fall into the trap of thinking this is about money. If you spend sufficient funds on flowers, chocolate, and a cute night gown (let’s face it, the night gown is a gift for you). To be sure, money helps. Particularly if you are a tight-wad or gifts are her thing. But let’s not pretend that money is honoring and showing her that you prize her. Money spent is only as good as it shows her that she is precious to you.

So let me show you the most excellent way. Demonstrate she is precious to you the other 364 days of the year.

I was recently discussing with my wife an idea I read in the book Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. Every day, he writes a note on the 3×5 card to his wife affirming her in some way. She loves these notes so much that she has shoe boxes full of them from many years of notes. Even when he travels, he leaves prewritten notes for her.

My wifes’ response was priceless. “I can’t imagine a woman who wouldn’t love that.”

Hint taken.

As of last week, I have written a 3×5 card every day I work. My friends, this works. It is good for her to read these notes but it is also very good for me to write them. It is good to be reminded about the things I love about her. It is not that we don’t fight, but it created a very affirming atmosphere for us to fight in. It has been so good that I will be writing one to each of my children once a week.

Gentlemen, the best way to love your wives is not to show her you care one day a year with a glorious and romantic evening. She would much rather you did a few little things the other 364 days. If we have done well, Valentines day will be the culmination of a previous year’s work. It doesn’t help me much if God loves me on Sunday but has no help for Monday. Your wife needs you to love her well the rest of the year so that you can give her a single rose on Valentine’s Day, but she knows that rose is from a man who deeply loves and affirms her.

Will this solve all your problem, not by a long shot. Loving is hard. But if all loving has this kind of payoff, then loving her well is wonderful indeed.

Now go tell that woman specifically what you love about her.

-Chip

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Affirmation Junkie Seeking Treatment

7392For those of you that know me, I have a secret.

No, I don’t do drugs.

Nope, no secret life of crime.

I’m an affirmation junkie.

But I take comfort that you are one too. You see, we are all affirmation junkies (except maybe some sociopaths). I love to have people’s approval. It’s one of my biggest fears in blogging that I am really just trying to sooth my affirmation habit.

In a real way, I should be an affirmation junkie. I should want desperately to be approved by God. Jesus treats that phrase, “Well done, good and faithful servant” to be a serious and honorable reward to seek. Think about it, how incredible would it be to be patted on the back by the creator of all things.

Unfortunately, I often prefer a much poorer substitute: you.

There is nothing wrong with your praise for me. The best of us are the one’s who praise God and others the most. I am reading a wonderful book by Sam Crabtree called Practicing Affirmation which is about how to wisely affirm others. Please read this book, particularly if you are a crank who never praises anything. To praise others can be wrong, to never praise others may mean you aren’t like God at all. He praises people. We should too.

By affirmation, I don’t mean flattery. If I say something positive about you for the purpose of getting you to do something for me. That is garbage. There are many flatterers out there and the scriptures clearly condemn the practice (Pro 29:5, Job 32:21-22).

I also don’t mean praising the insignificant. “Nice shirt” is praise, but of the smallest variety. These praises are the bulk of the affirming words that we as Americans give to each other. They feel shallow and meaningless because they are. No, there are better praises than that.

As Sam Crabtree argues, real affirmations are descriptions of how a person is displaying an attribute of God. If someone works hard, say that. God also works hard and they are being like God. If someone is kind or gentle or generous or humble, tell them so and remind them that they are being like God when they do these things. How substantive is that!

“It was so good to see you help that lady with her groceries. That looked like something Jesus would do.”

“The way you spoke to that angry customer was very gentle. That took patience.”

The nature of a good affirmation is actually delighting in the way they have imitated God. When people act like their creator, it is a wonderful thing.

But back to the original question, how can I like affirmation yet not idolize it. Jesus had some serious warning about seeking the praise of people. He also had serious promises about the praise God can give as a reward. So what do I do when someone praises me.

  1. Recognize that all the praiseworthy things in me are gifts from God.
  2. Not only are these attributes from God, but they are perfected in him. If I do something well, how much more magnificently does God do it.
  3. The real joy is in delighting in God getting praise. Not in keeping the praise for myself.
  4. Praise from people is to be joyfully accepted. What a sweet thing that someone can delight in my work. But it is not to be kept, as if the good quality were from me.

I recently read an analogy from Corrie Ten Boom recounted from here:

Someone once asked her (Corrie) how she could possibly handle all the compliments and praise that were constantly heaped upon her, without becoming proud. She said she looked at each compliment as a beautiful long-stemmed flower given to her. She smelled it for a moment and then put it into a vase with the others. Each night, just before retiring, she took the beautiful bouquet and handed it over to God saying, “Thank you, Lord, for letting me smell the flowers; they all belong to you.”

I think Tante Corrie is right on. Praise can be delighted in, but only for a short time. The real joy is getting the praise to the one who really deserves it. What is amazing to me is that he is the one who really deserves all praise, yet he takes the time to praise my good works that he caused.

What an amazing God we serve.

-Chip