- - Saturday, February 14, 2015

It’s that time of year again; romantic movies are filling the screens of movie theaters and TV channels. Kleenex’s are at the ready for that tear-jerking scene where the boy finally gets the girl and they live happily ever after. But this year’s line-up includes a dangerous movie titled “Fifty Shades of Grey” presenting viewers with warped and abusive behavior as almost “forgivable personal preference” instead of the path to abusive manipulation, perverted entrapment and indescribable heartache that it truly is.

As a parent, I want the best for my two sons and that includes teaching them the joy of giving and receiving unconditional love. With that in mind, two years ago I ordered each of them a special gift for Christmas. The gift was simple and only cost about $12. It wasn’t the latest Xbox game or electronic gadget. It wasn’t even something on their Christmas list, but they’ve used it every day since. It’s a 2.5 foot plastic replica of a Coke bottle to hold their spare change. This wasn’t just any coin bank, and my motive in giving it to them wasn’t as much to teach them about saving money as it was to teach them about what love is and what it means.

There’s a story that goes with that coin bank. There once was a little farm boy raised by loving parents, who, although they didn’t have much, provided unconditional love to him and his three siblings. They taught him to work hard, love God and plan for his future family. When the boy turned 13, he started saving his spare change in a big Pepsi bottle change bank. It started out as a contest with his sister, but afterward he continued to save. He set a goal: to save enough change to take his wife to Paris someday on his honeymoon.

He saved until he was 23 and finally met the girl of his dreams. When they met, she was a “starving artist,” studying voice and teaching full time in order to make ends meet and he was a farmer who owned a small trucking company. They fell in love quickly and were soon engaged. On a visit to his house, she saw that Pepsi coin bank, sitting in the corner and thought it was cute, but never asked about it. One night, as they discussed wedding plans, he asked her where she wanted to go on their honeymoon. “I don’t know. Disneyworld?” she replied. She’d never given it much thought. “How ‘bout Paris?” There was a long pause. “France?!?” she asked. “Yes.” he chuckled, “Paris, France!”

She was excited yet curious. “Can … can we afford that?” He then went on to tell her something that revealed his love to her in a whole new light. “Did you ever see that big plastic Pepsi bottle coin bottle I have?” he asked, a bit shyly. “Well, I’ve been saving my pocket change in that bottle at the end of every day since I was 13 years old, and I always wanted to take my wife … well … YOU … to Paris, on our honeymoon with the money I saved.” Her heart was pounding and tears were rushing to her eyes. “Really?” She couldn’t disguise the lump in her throat. He added, “Now, we don’t have to go to Paris. We can go wherever you want. I just always thought of Paris as romantic and …” — “YES!!! YES!!” she whispered, laughing and crying at the same time. And then I spoke words I never thought I would ever speak, “Paris is perfect!” And it was!

My husband showed me extravagant love and I realized in that moment that he’d been loving me before he even met me. Every time he put those left-over coins from buying baseball cards into that coin bottle, he was planning for me. When he turned 18 and poured all the change into a larger box in order to start saving all over again, he was thinking of me. When he took the coins to the bank and made a deposit, he was planning to treat me like a princess. It gave me complete assurance that if this man had the character to save for so many years in order to give such an incredible gift, I could trust his love for the rest of my life. That’s the lesson I wanted to teach my boys: Love waits patiently, plans sacrificially and gives extravagantly.

If we can see the benefit of teaching young people to plan ahead and save their money to get an education or start a career, why can’t we teach them the same principle regarding love and relationships? Their hearts are treasures not toys. A young man, saving his pocket change for his honeymoon will be more likely to have a higher standard in dating because he wants his long effort of sacrificial planning to be given wisely. He will have a natural respect for women because he is already acting on his hope of loving the right one extravagantly.

An extravagant kind of love saves and plans excitedly for a honeymoon, not sadistically for a “room of pain.” Love is not a “grey area.” It is a full spectrum rainbow of vibrant, uplifting experiences rooted in security and unlimited potential. It is growth and happiness, hard work and companionship, comfort and reassurance.

I’m “Just Sayin’,” our young people are our future and our true treasure. Let’s help them find the best, not confuse them with mixed messages about destructive behavior! I Corinthians 13 puts it best: “Love is patient. Love is kind. It doesn’t envy and isn’t proud. It isn’t self-centered or selfish. It doesn’t rejoice in perversion, but in truth. Love does not boast or promote itself and is not easily provoked or angered. Love waits long and is kind. Love never fails.”

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