As January fades away and February approaches, my very first thought of the coming month is Valentine’s Day – the beginning of the yearly cycle of American commercialization flexing its muscle, turning sentiment into a marketing bonanza. A day meant to impress on us another of those occasions we ought to participate in to be “normal.” As a newlywed, it is easy to get drawn into the appeal of sharing a special date, or moments with my lovely bride. But as I think back on many Valentine’s Days, I realize they have been some of the saddest and loneliest days of the year. I remember watching friends and family share in these moments of love and connection with one another – and this served only to put a magnifying glass on the fact that I had no loved one, or had lost one that I had loved.
Acceptance and belonging are what we yearn for. As humans, we have an innate desire for connection – a desire to love, and to be loved. We experience love, and can love others because we were first loved by God (1 John 4:19). When we are alone, or lonely in the world, we can remember the love of Christ Jesus, who first loved us. When the world tells us we do not belong, or that we are unworthy of love, God tells us ”You belong to me, and I love you unconditionally.” This is Agape love – a divine love that is unconditional. There is nothing that can be done to earn unconditional love, and there is nothing that can be done to turn it away. It is an outpouring of love upon humanity, expressed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
They say “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
(1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).
“Love is patient, love is kind.” I have also heard it said “Love is patient, love is kind, love is slowly losing your mind.” I bet you that was what Christ was thinking as he was going to the cross – wondering where his mind was, paying the ultimate sacrifice as a sign of love for humankind. But this is what we know to be true of love. We experience love as others give of themselves to us. This is real-life incarnational love: when our grandmothers bake us cookies, or our mothers wash our clothes; when our fathers work hard and long days to provide food and shelter for us; as we grow old and others begin to care for us. Love is giving of oneself for the sake of the other.
Wherever you find yourself on Valentine’s Day, remember that we know love, because we were first loved by Jesus.