Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.
I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. I think it’s a holiday advertised by card, candy and flower companies to boost their sales and apparently they do a good job. It’s a billion dollar industry from what I hear. I think the idea is a bit depressing but speaks so loudly towards the mindset of most Americans these days. If you want to improve something just throw some money at it and the end result will always be better than it was from the outset. At least for a little while. It’s a holiday that populates all my social networking website feeds with pictures and posts about how great someone’s significant other is because on this appointed day in the middle of February they went to some extravagant lengths to be “romantic” and “to show how much he/she loves me” (usually he). For some reason that fills me with a certain amount of grief I’m not sure I want to explain.
But I’ll try.
Well start with the personal issues. I’m 26 and single and have been for about 5 years. Sure there have been interlopers in that time but nothing I’d call a real relationship. You’d be surprised how many people run for the hills when you’re honest with them about your life. Anyway, you’d think after 5 years I’d learn to ignore all the nonsense that I see this time of year but for some reason it gets under my skin. Sure, most of it is the consumerism but there’s also a little bit of jealousy in there I think. Why wouldn’t there be? Everyone seems so happy with themselves and their partners at least for those 24 hours and I’m pretty much miserable for one reason or another and sometimes no reason at all. When it comes right down to it I see a lot of people who are stupidly happy as if they’d been huffing gasoline all morning for an entire day and part of me wishes it could be me because it’s, quite frankly, a rarity for me to be in a positive mood as of late. Maybe I’ll just start huffing gasoline.
But that’s not the real issue. Because the thing that bothers me about it is the source of the holiday. Behind all the hearts and flowers and chubby little kids in diapers with wings and a bow that’s supposed to be cupid (god of erotic love… nice) there is the subtext of the holiday. The door behind the door if you can wade through all the stuffed animals and other assorted fluff between the two. As the 80’s group Heart once asked…
What about love?
I’m a firm believer in love. I think it’s the cure for a lot of the world’s problems since God loved the world enough to give his only son. You know John 3:16. Even the atheists I know are familiar with that one. Come one now. Or, as my friend Josh reminded me, there is no greater love than a man who lays down his life for his friends. So, at the heart I think Jesus is the heart (ha!) of Valentine’s Day. Sure, it was named for a follower of Christ who was martyred for his faith but somehow I think that’s just proof, a symbol that the Roman Catholic Church pegged on a day of the year so your kids can take Valentine’s Day cards with goofy cartoon characters and cheap candy to school. At least you can still do that in my little sister’s school. It’s a holiday bereft of any of its religious meaning now so I guess that makes it all OK. We’re good at cheapening traditions to the point where the meaning is completely lost. You can do that with anything that people find important and you can, in fact, cheapen love as well. There’s something strange about love though.
Love is resilient. If it’s true, pure and sacrificial love I don’t think you can ever completely empty it of its potency. Paul writes in the 13th chapter in his first letter to the church at Corinth a powerful and sweeping picture of the veracity and tenacity of love. His first point is that you can do most anything in life but if you don’t have that sacrificial love when you do it you’re wasting your time because you gain nothing. Essentially, he says you’re beating a dead horse. That’s flooring to think about. Take this blog entry for instance. If I wasn’t doing this because I deeply care about love and its worth in our lives but if I don’t have love while I’m writing it I might as delete the whole thing because I’m just blowing smoke and I wouldn’t be writing words that may somehow be edifying to someone, somewhere, someday. That’s has interesting implications. How do I do my job with love? How do I drive my car with love? Good question…
My pastor friend gets the privilege of marrying people. As part of the package he does pre-marital counseling (or so he says. I didn’t get to set in during my internship). He told me some of the stuff he likes to do as part of the process. One night he’ll have them open their Bible to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and has them read it out loud. “Love is patient, love is kind…” you get the idea. Then he has them go back and, instead of having them just read the verses he has them insert their first name in the place of the word “love”. Try it and see if it rings true for you.
Jeremiah is patient and kind (sometimes)
Jeremiah does not envy or boast; he is not arrogant (liar)
or rude. He does not insist on his own way (Not true even on my best day)
he is not irritable or resentful (**buzzer** wrong)
he does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (Sometimes it’s funny when bad things happen, though I love truth. Love it.)
Jeremiah bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (nope, nope, nope, definitely not)
Hopefully, you get the idea. I did. So, love is a difficult thing to do and be. I say it that way because love is something you have to do but you must also be love in the sense that I think we have to exist in a state in which we are constantly loving other people. It’s hard work but it’s worth it in the few instances where people have actually been conducive to that kind of treatment without being wary of my motives. That’s a sad fact in itself. Have you ever met people who have been abused by the “love” of others that has made them wary when the real thing comes along? Admittedly, I’m this way and so I’ve gotten really good at putting people at arms length. I’ve gotten really good at developing trust before love. Is it supposed to be that way? I don’t know. Love endures, in fact Paul says it does not end. That’s a statement that should haunt you in a good way. Like the song “Black” by Pearl Jam haunts me because it’s just so close to perfect.
Because I know you. You’ve been burnt so many times by love. But it wasn’t really love because it was love based on a person’s definition which is inherently flawed. And it’s happened enough that you don’t want to believe that someone else loves you in a way that doesn’t ask something of you. I know because I’ve been there too. Maybe you’ve gotten over it or maybe you’ve constructed some really strong defense mechanisms and built some really sturdy walls around you that people have to scale and get past to get to know you. Maybe I know because that’s me too. But I have to remind myself that coping is not really living and it’s definitely not loving. But the train never truly leaves the station with love, not true, real love. Because it’s God’s love and, like everything attributed to him, it goes on forever.
Love does not end. Regardless of how I may feel about people, relationships, marriage and even