It’s come to my attention that the fabled heart-bedecked day is upon us once more. Coincidentally, my shopping cart gravitates toward dark chocolate at the supermarket, and I smile when I watch that old man place a bouquet of roses on his bicycle before heading home to his love—but I was wondering if we might do something different this year. In the words of my dear J.R.R. Tolkien:
“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”
So will you begin a Valentine journey with me?
I’m sure you’ve felt it too. In times past generic cards often dotted the difficult years of singleness, which then transitioned toward the relational pressure to become the stars of an effortless Kay Jewelers commercial every February 14. I have to wonder if beneath the stereotypical expectations we might together find something deeper—something more. Because love is far greater than the lace doily our world has wrapped it in.
Remember when we met, how you used to hold my hand for hours over the center consul of the car, rubbing my knuckles and marveling at the shape of my thumb? Three years, two jobs, and one baby later we sometimes have to fight to get back there. Time travel that surpasses the numbness of the mundane has to be deliberate, or it won’t happen at all. Love that costs the lover nothing is not worthy of the name, and that’s a lesson we learn and learn again.
Hard loving. Loving when it hurts.
I want to re-think this holiday, because love is the very banner under which believers were meant to gather. It’s the blood-red grace-mark that’s supposed to distinguish Jesus’ followers. By love we’re called to be known, and if that is true, then I know my rebel’s heart will need more than a red rose to train it. Because the other day my spirit cringed ugly when the light gently exposed a rotten branch, drawing attention to the dirty looks I threw at your back when you left coffee grounds in the sink again.
“Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” This is the truth that always fights to bridge the gap between us, in those life-heavy moments when our fingers are separated by mere inches but our hearts lie many miles of silence apart.
This year, and the next year, and the next year after that, I want to learn courage, because to love is to be vulnerable—to be brave. God, “show me where my armor ends, show me where my skin begins.” Because when we do the Father’s love, the real and mighty kind that inhabits deep waters, then that mantle begins to cover not only my soul and yours. The stitches multiply and weave wider until they become a canopy under which the weary may find rest and the lost may be found.
“My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love for me. Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.”
As Christians, love is our weapon; love is light. All the vast array of magnificent deeds that we might do for the kingdom are reduced to naught, unless we have love. The many beautiful words I could weave would be as a mouthful of dry dust if my heart was not broken for the things of this world that beg for God’s mercy and compassion. And the revolutionary inventions that your mind and hands can conjure would avail nothing if the code of God’s love were not programmed into the marrow of it all.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love you terribly, though often not as selflessly as I should. And as the manufactured hype of this holiday approaches, you have my utmost permission to take a deep breath of relief. I have all I really need, and the sight of your soul tuned to God's heart in a hurting world is more romantic to me than a thousand strings of pearls.
You know how much I love wildflowers and fresh tea, and I melt like warm dark chocolate when you leave handwritten notes on my car. These are gifts both beautiful and good that I will always receive with great joy. But when it comes to love, true love, let us never forget the author of the story, the one who gave his son to be an atoning sacrifice for the lost and unworthy whom he refused to un-love. “Dear friends, as God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
This day belongs not to the exclusivity of romantic emotion between lovers, nor is it an excuse to fill one day to the brim with thoughts of love only to leave cups dry and empty throughout the rest of the year. Love was not made to be this hollow basin into which we pour an often processed feeling on occasion. Instead it is the very all-purpose all-weather clothing we are called to put on each and every day and that which should proclaim to a broken world who we are and whom we serve.
So here’s to you, my Valentine. Do you want to do this adventure with me? It won’t always be an effortless quest, and at times this loving will be bitterly painful. But when “love breaks my bones and I laugh” I know that the love of an Almighty God is able to demolish even the strongholds of self, and perhaps if we are broken together beneath the Father’s will, then things will come out all right in the end.
Let’s keep learning, you and I, and as God perfects our practice and reorders our love, perhaps he will allow us to share this glorious incomparable joy with the others whom he sent his one and only son to die for. It’s why we’re here, and as we continue our together-journey, let us sow the small acts of kindness and love that keep the darkness at bay.
All My Love,
Images via: tumblr.com, Allison Richards, weheartit.com, afternoon-in-autumn.blogspot.com, Melissa Chinchilla, okno.no.uk, poetrysociety.org.
Quotations by: Alison Luterman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Sleeping at Last, Samuel Crossman, 1 John 4:11, Charles Bukowski, J.R.R. Tolkien, Walt Whitman.
All work subject to copyright by the author. Use by permission only. 2016.