Valentine’s Day. Who needs it? Hallmark. Florists. Chocolatiers. The cynics among us shun the capital opportunity hiding behind such tokens of ‘love.’ “But I don’t know if all that’s true, cuz you got me, and baby, I got you…” Love. It’s in the air. What’s so dreadful about celebrating the thrilling attraction, the lofty emotion, the promise of fidelity and the striving, hard work of keeping it?
Paul teaches that this is love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.”
A tall order. And impossible to accomplish on our own.
We lose our patience, say spiteful, mean-spirited things, see the grass as greener, puff ourselves up. We put ourselves in first place, think only of our own needs and desires, let our tempers flare, and bring up past grievances with every new perceived offense against us. We stoop to deceit and enjoy the power it brings. We expose and abandon, give up, quit.
On our own, we fail pretty miserably at love.
Yet, we long for love. We know, in spite of the cynics around us, in spite of our own failures, in spite of our own sorrows, that love is good. In fact, we were made for love. We were made, as the Valentine cards and the fairy tales urge us to remember, for a “happily ever after.” Many of us have stood before God, our families and friends, and promised to ‘love, ’til death parts us.’ The thing is, when death parts us from this life, the real ‘ever after’ life begins. And the love that has sustained us through this life suddenly comes into full view. Paul continues,
“where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now, I know in part; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”
We discuss love, war, family, truth — we discuss this life, and what it means. We try to predict what will happen, based on what has gone before. We yammer. We philosophize. We suggest. We do know so much, and the truths Man has uncovered, the understandings he has gained, the things he has made, the work he has done — O! What an amazing lot we are. But we’re not perfect, and we don’t know everything. It doesn’t take much to prove that. Nations at war, families at war, deceit of every kind, thievery, adultery, pride, hatred. We don’t always think things through. We can’t quite see the whole picture, understand the shades of apparent gray, figure out the ending. Like children, we ceaselessly ask ‘why,’ and pout when we get an answer that doesn’t satisfy, or give up when the answer is delayed. We look in the mirror, and often don’t like what we see. We look in the mirror, and wonder who we really are.
“God is greater than our hearts. And he knows everything.” (1 John 3: 20)
He knows our desires. He knows our worries and fears. Our deepest longings, dearest hopes, worst pain are not kept from him. He knows what we need: Forgiveness. Understanding. Truth. Grace. Love. He urges us to share those with the people in our lives. Family. Friends. The stranger on the street corner. Co-workers. Husbands. Wives. He sends us reminders: The world He made, and its glorious beauty — the stars in the heavens, the windswept oceans, the whispering pines, the single red rose. He offers a taste, that we might hunger for His goodness: clear, cold water, a warm crust of bread, the fruit of the vine. He gives us his Word — prophecies and their fulfillment told, the goodness of the law, a letter proclaiming the truth in love. He gives us a redeemer, One who can mend our brokenness, fulfill our desires, make us perfectly able to love as He has first loved us. Reminders.
So, today, when we give or receive those tokens of love — the thorny, beautiful rose, the words of Love, or the sweetness of desire in a heart-shaped confection — perhaps we should consider that we are merely practicing this:
The command to love one another. With words. With deeds. With the promise of ‘happily ever after’ boldly stated on candy hearts, paper cards, silky petals, dark chocolate. Let Cupid shoot his arrow. Be reminded: your heart needs be pierced.