Reuben Shelter is a member of the Sugarcreek Amish community and a former nuCamp team member. Reuben writes a series of articles about the Amish lifestyle for us to share with nuCamp owners.
Ah, February. The month when love is in the air. Right in the middle of winter, when the weather is at its worst, hearts are warmed with flowers, candy, and expressions of love and appreciation.
The Amish celebrate Valentine’s Day, just like everyone else. The way our church does this is by hosting a Valentine’s supper for all married couples. We take turns by age to prepare the food each year, with two couples doing the work. We enjoy an extravagant meal, and then we play games until late. Usually, the games are a bit silly, so the evening is filled with laughter. My wife and I clatter home together in the buggy, reminiscing about the event. We feel the warmth and security of our love for each other and the fellowship and companionship of the other 15 couples in our church.
Amish dating culture
Those Valentine’s meals always take my thoughts back to my dating days. A popular pastime for Amish youth is volleyball. During the summer, these youth groups get together every Friday night to play. They number off to create teams, then the games last until almost midnight. Volleyball is a great way for young people to mingle. Anyone can play, and the game is fast-paced and exciting.
Of course, for any teenage boy, meeting the girls is exciting too. I met my wife for the first time at one of these volleyball games. She was wearing a red dress, and we weren’t on the same team. But the next Friday night, I made a sly trade with another boy to ensure I ended up on the same team as her. And it was not long thereafter that I secured my first date.
I was 20 — and my wife was 17 — when we had our first date. We did it in typical Amish fashion. I arranged for a van driver to take us out. This was a 14-passenger van, and we filled it up with friends. A first date is a grand occasion, and a young Amish couple rarely does it alone. An entire group goes out together, and it’s pretty much a casual get-to-know-you.
We went out to eat on that first date, and then we went bowling. During a rare moment alone that night, I asked her if she’d like to go out again a week later. She said yes.
For the second date, we went out to eat again, but this time with a smaller group of people. It was only six of us, three couples. This was a sign that we were getting to know each other better.
Amish couples almost always have three dates before they consider themselves “going steady.” The third date is usually the deciding factor.
For this special occasion, I hitched up my horse and buggy and drove the 9 miles to spend the evening at her house. I met her parents and siblings. Her brothers helped us play some card games, and we got acquainted to a comfortable level. When I drove my horse home that night, I officially had a girlfriend. I almost floated out of that buggy.
A reflection of God’s love
Now, every year on Valentine’s Day, I think back to those days. My wife and I have been married for almost 9 years now. Our love has only grown stronger. The young, carefree love of our dating days has been replaced by a strong, firm commitment to be there for each other no matter what may come.
Love can be displayed in many ways and be felt in all sorts of degrees. But all love feels good. All love is beautiful. All love is service to each other. Love is always about the other person. Showing them that you care.
The Bible tells us God is love. When I ponder on that deeply, it only makes sense. How could it be otherwise? The One who created us loves us. He desires our hearts and wants to have a relationship with us. What other purpose would God have for making me? Why make me, then not want to be with me? In my heart, I know that the only force powerful enough to create existence could be love itself. God is love.
I think the strong, committed love my wife and I have for each other is a reflection of the love God wants to have with each human being He has created. And just like Valentine’s Day occurs in the midst of dreary winter, so God’s love is there for us during the hard times. It’s a love that never goes away, no matter what.
Flowers, candy, and expressions of appreciation are excellent ways to show your loved ones you care. So let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day. Let’s celebrate love. The essence of existence.