We all get a little starry-eyed around February 14. No matter how sophisticated we may pretend to be, there’s still a little piece of us that wants to hear someone say, “Will you be my Valentine?”

I know, dudes try to shrug romance off as girls’ stuff, a game we have to pretend to play just to keep them happy. You know, the frilly dreams they love to read about in Brides Magazine. I’m sure there isn’t a Grooms Magazine. Well, I checked; there is. But when I looked more closely, I discovered that the editor is a woman! Some cynic put it this way: Women live for romantic love; men just drop in between games on TV.

The truth is, however, that just about all of us have fallen in love at least once in our lives, and it’s a good feeling, especially if the other person gives us signals that the feeling is mutual. And yet, think about how we label this: falling in love. This implies that the “love” was not something we decided to do, but a feeling that came over us, beyond our control. And if we fall in, we can fall out as well. That’s why the sense of being in love is often pretty short-lived. It’s also why so many broken hearts result when one person falls out, while the other is still emotionally committed to the relationship.

Rogers and Hart wrote about this in their 1938 musical, The Boys from Syracuse:

Falling in love with love is falling for make-believe
Falling in love with love is playing the fool
Caring too much is such a juvenile fancy
Learning to trust is just for children in school

On the other hand, my wife Judy and I exchanged Valentines yesterday, and we’ve been involved in our “juvenile fancy” for 63 years!* What’s our secret? Our secret is that our relationship doesn’t depend on our being “in love.” On Valentines Day and at other significant moments we still share that sparkling experience, but most of our life together is based on another kind of love, a love we’ve decided on and committed to. It’s carried us through a lot of dark days and hard experiences when we didn’t feel “in love.” In fact, there were times when we’ve blamed each other, rather than supported each other.

Four different Greek words are translated by the English word love. In the New Testament of the Bible, the Greek word eros is never used. This is the word that would describe romantic love, sexual love, being in love. Our English word erotic comes from eros. It’s not that the early Christian writers didn’t know about romantic love; they experienced the same human attractions as we do. But they were focused on a more profound kind of love, and they used the Greek word agape to describe the love Jesus demonstrated and taught about, a lasting, whole-person investment in another person based on a decision to love.

Many years ago, Judy and I committed to agape love in our marriage, and that’s why we’re still together.

Here’s the kind of love I’m talking about:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:12-17)

— Pastor George Van Alstine

* This is written with Judy’s knowledge and permission