VALENTINE'S DAY, 2003, WAS A DAY OF PAINFUL opposites throughout this blessed land. As schoolchildren exchanged cards and spouses exchanged kisses, journalists and officials exchanged rumors of war. We all had to decide whether to spend the day fretting or to carry on in our callings.
In my case, once I decided to pay attention to the Lord and not bin Laden, it was delightful to turn off news shows and catch up on the many thoughtful letters from WORLD readers that for reasons of space haven't made it into our Mailbag. Here are several highlights:
John Mills of Fredericksburg, Va., pointed out that "liberal" and "conservative" labels are outdated, and came up with excellent replacement suggestions: "activist" and "realist." Activists actively seek power, while realists know the dangers of social engineering and the law of unintended consequences.
Brett Venable of Milford, Del., compared an earlier NIV Student Bible with the "revised" NIV Student Bible and sent me photocopies of the pages as proof. Previously, the section concerning Sodom and Gomorrah noted that "Sodom was a wretched place. The whole town saw the coming of strangers as a chance for homosexual gang rape." The "revised" edition omits any mention of homosexuality.
Michael Dean of Waukesha, Wis., wrote that defenders of public education often assume a "tri-modal" position, seeing public schools as neither "theistic" nor "a-theistic," but "non-theistic." And yet, "If my son rides in my car and observes me drive 40 miles per hour, I don't need to tell him repeatedly, 'There is no 30 mph speed limit.' Whether he thinks about it or not, he understands intuitively either that I don't believe in such a limit, or that I consider it irrelevant and the consequences of its violation insignificant. Similarly, when authority figures in government schools consider all matters of human significance without reference to God, students cannot help but conclude that the state considers His existence unlikely or inconsequential or both."
Chloe Zeffini of Columbus, Ohio, alerted me to the Save Fenway Park! Organization, which is devoted to preserving the landmark home of the Boston Red Sox. As she writes, "It is important for us to remember the past, and the generation that is so willing to replace such an historic site is misguided."
Then, on Valentine's Day afternoon, it was time either to write a column about terrorism or to read the 70 letters from those married for 20+ years that had already arrived in response to my Feb. 8 column. I chose to read about God's tender mercies, and was enthralled.
We'll run some of those letters in the Mailbag over the next several months, and I'll plan to quote others in a June column. But I was struck by the way that, despite great problems at times, couples persevered and saw how God built strong marriages that would affect not just one generation but the next, and the next after that.
For example, Max and Dixie Edwards from Winchester, Ind., wrote that "The greatest reward at this age is to have four married children who view us as examples and are rearing our 10 grandchildren to view their grandparents as two people who have done it right." Fred Stoll of Rock Hill, S.C., wrote of his parents' long marriage, and how their "example motivated me to love my wife for life, train my children, and encourage my grandchildren to do the same."
Similarly, Furman and Joan Tinon of Frazeysburg, Ohio, wrote that "after nearly 52 years together in committed marriage, we are gratified to observe our offspring following steadily in our footsteps, secure in their own increasingly long-term marriages to their original mates. Their children, the ones who have reached young adulthood, are making careful plans to include monogamous marriage in their own futures."
Other letters that we'll publish or quote later show that those without parental advantages can also succeed through God's grace. But for now, let's conclude with a poignant letter from Susan Barton of Sugar Land, Texas: "Our 20th anniversary has just passed. We were both in our very late 20s when we met and married, and so have some experience as single adults. We found that in relationships, as in most other endeavors, the rewards are proportional to the investment. The sacrifices required to build a marriage, to earn the trust and respect of children, and to hold the family in greater esteem than the self are tremendous, but are nothing compared to the richness, and downright fun, of the experience. We did not actually achieve 20 years of marriage because my husband died of cancer 41 days before our anniversary. I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
Nor should any of us miss joy even when other terrors lurk. Bin Laden, Saddam, or cancer may strike, but through God's grace there's lots of good in the world.