Be mine, Valentine. No sooner, it seems, are the shops clear of tinsel and baubles than they restock with heart-shaped chocolates and soft toys bearing romantic messages. But interest in romance is not just around Valentine’s Day. Throughout the year the pop charts are full of love songs and the cinemas with films which have a love story at their heart.
Teenagers are particularly sensitive to the biological imperative to pair up and often expend a great deal of time and money trying to look just right for that special someone who might come along. It is not out of fashion: according to a recent survey, 89% of young people want to get married.
Deep in our wiring, most human beings seem to desire to find a mate and ‘live happily ever after’. Though we often fall short of the ideal, there is a deep yearning for relationships that are lifelong and exclusive. Divorce is a sad reality, but two thirds of first marriages do in fact last ‘until death us do part’. And research suggests that marriage is good both for adults and children. Whilst it is not always possible for various reasons, we know that children generally do best when brought up by married parents.
From the earliest times human societies have recognised, regulated and organised themselves around lifelong ’pair-bonds’ of a man and woman in which children are born and raised. Marriage has not been invented by any government or religion, nor can it be redefined. Marriage arises from our nature.
It is one of the joys and privileges of ministry that I get to meet couples wanting to get married and then officiate at their weddings. The Church of England wedding service is well-known and speaks of marriage as reflecting the union of Christ with his bride, the Church. Marriage is God’s idea and the love and commitment expressed in marriage is one of the ways humans are designed to reflect God.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:2-3).
Marriage is a precious thing which we should celebrate and protect, and we should support those who are married or aspiring to relationships of love and commitment. Perhaps every day should be Valentine’s Day.
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton
References for research quoted can be found here