This week has been filled with Valentines and stories on social media about the love affairs of people throughout history. Most notably, I tend to like presidential history and I watched a video of President Bush (41) and Barbara talking about their love affair through almost 71 years of marriage.
It started with letters that the President wrote to Barbara while he was in the armed services and he read some of them on camera – professing his love for his wife – then and now. Barbara wrote him as frequently, but unfortunately, her earlier letters were lost at sea during the WWII. I have heard Bush read his letters before and, as he explained, letters were the way that people kept in touch back then. Email hadn’t been invented and although there were telephones, it was almost impossible to get a call through to a ship at sea with any reliability – especially a warship.
Another article I read this week had to do with our 5th president, President James Monroe and his wife, Elizabeth Kortright. They were married on this date, February 16th, back in 1786. James was deeply in love with his wife and they had three children – two daughters and a son, James, who died in infancy. Monroe had quite a stellar career, holding a number of different government positions and was even instrumental in assisting in the freeing of General Lafayette’s wife during the French Revolution when Monroe was stationed in France.
Monroe and his wife also were prolific writers of letters to each other. They stayed in touch through the written word during his travels throughout the world and five years after the end of President Monroe’s term, Elizabeth died in 1830. The President was so devastated by her death that he burned more than 40 years of their love letters to one another. Unfortunately, these precious items are now lost to us, but I can certainly understand his distress at the loss of his wife.
John Adams, our second president was also a strong believer in the written word and he spent much time writing to his wife, Abigail Adams. They were third cousins and married in October, 1764. Adams considered his wife an equal in their marriage, which was rare for the time, and they spent hours discussing the law and all kinds of issues of the day. They were a real partnership. In fact, Adams spent most of his life writing notes and comments on people he knew and cared about.
In one very famous episode, he and his old friend Thomas Jefferson had a falling out and went years without corresponding before a friend convinced Adams to reach out to his old friend Jefferson and revive the friendship. So, on January 1, 1812, Adams wrote a cordial letter to the owner of Monticello and the friendship was re-kindled. With his note, he included 2 volumes of books written by his son, John Quincy Adams, as a peace offering – Jefferson was an insatiable reader. In fact, their renewed friendship lasted throughout the balance of their lives. Oddly, both men died on July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence, Adams having attained the rope old age of 90. In an even stranger twist of fate, James Monroe also died on July 4th, although he lived until 1831, passing away at the age of 73.
Of course, I have been thinking of love letters and reading volumes on the topic as I said at the top of this post. I am sure that you know that I am about to mention the greatest love letter of all time – God’s love letter to us – the Bible. That’s right – this wonderful book is the best love letter of all time. It is filled with wisdom and promises of God to his people. The church is even referred to as the “bride” of Christ and what could be more compelling that to read the words of Scripture, written by men through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spelling out God’s love for us?
Our verse for tonight highlights the love of God through the words of His Son, Jesus. The apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, tells us in his Gospel, in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This is one of the most famous verses on love that was ever written, or spoken.
My encouragement this evening is that God loves us more than we can ever imagine. Somehow, that seems fitting this Valentine’s week. In fact, God wants us to be His Valentines forever – every day throughout eternity. My prayer is that you will take some time and ponder the wonder of this great gift. Because as much as Adams, Monroe and Bush loved their wives, their love pales in comparison to the love that each of us receives from the Father and His Son. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…