Ahh, yes. Valentine’s Day has come around once again. Of course, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me, considering that I am single. I prefer it that way, though. It certainly saves money around this time of year. Heh. That’s not to say that I don’t like romance and all that mushy stuff. I’m sort of a sucker for it, although I try to act tough and not show it. But ultimately, I just disagree with the whole idea of Valentine’s Day. The immense expectations surrounding the day makes it unnerving for most guys – they are expected to buy something for their girlfriends/wives, expected to do something special, expected to say “I love you.” And, while it certainly is good and, indeed, healthy for couples to display their affections to each other, the fact that people are doing it at least partially as a result of expectations is what I don’t agree with. Saying “I love you” to your significant other means much less on Valentine’s Day than on any other day of the year. If don’t say it on Feb. 14, you’re sleeping on the couch that night, and so the stakes are high.
Sure, if you truly love someone, you should be willing to spend money on them. That’s fine. And guys certainly appreciate the fact that no matter how much they screw up the few days after Valentine’s, they are still in their girl’s good books. But ultimately, it seems like a cheap commercialization of love. Roses that would cost much less at any other time of the year suddenly rise to outrageous prices. There are plenty of chocolate producers, card-makers, and flower-growers that make plenty of money out of this whole thing. And while a guy can certainly come up with more creative options to cut down on the cost, the fact still remains that the expectation is there. Why not surprise your significant other on some other day instead? Celebrate your very own Valentine’s Day on a randomly selected day of the year, each year. It’s not only more economical, but it’ll mean so much more anyways. Of course, you might have a hard time finding chocolates in heart-shaped boxes, unless they’re incredibly old and stale.
Anyways, yesterday in church, the pastor was talking about love and relationships. You know, to coincide with Valentine’s Day. But he brought up an interesting point that I’ve heard before, and in the service, I had a chance to think about it and come to some conclusions. In this day and age, love is all about the feeling. You “fall in love” like it was some hole you tripped over, and then you break up because “I’m just not feeling it anymore.” How cheap. How pitiful. And yet, there are millions of people that have this as their only idea of love. If you don’t feel the feeling, then you don’t have love in your life. In that sense, the phrase “I love you” means, “I love you today, but I can’t guarantee tomorrow.” And that kind of love, in my eyes, is worthless.
The truth is that love is much more than this. The Bible gives plenty of insight into the true nature of love. And, of course, every church-goer has heard this passage a million times, so, like the pastor did yesterday, I’ll quote it from the Message translation to just bring it out in a new light.
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
“Love never dies.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
Reading it over gives such a broader picture of love. Love “isn’t always ‘me first.'” Feelings are “me first,” and love is not. Love “puts up with anything.” People that operate on feelings can’t say the same. The truth is that love is much more than a feeling. And, at the risk of sounding like a pastor, I’d like to mention three things that it is.
First, love is a motivation. We see this very clearly in the greatest gift the world has ever received. God was motivated by His love for us, and as a result, He sent His Son to earth. Love was the precursor to the action. A similar example would be a parent disciplining their child. Though it is not pleasant, because of the parent’s love for the child, they do what is best for them. They know that discipline now will result in a better person later. Love is the reason that married couples stick together through their difficulties rather than saying, “Enough is enough,” and walking away. Love never gives up, and it never dies, because it motivates us to action.
Second, and related to the first, love is an action. Because love motivates us to action, love can become the action itself. God gave His Son, in love. We, because of love, act lovingly toward others. “Love cares more for others than for self.” That is the action. Because what good is love without action to accompany it? If you say “I love you” to someone every day, but never show it, what evidence is there that you actually love them? Certainly, sometimes people just need to hear you say it, but that is in addition to the actions we do to show others our love. First love motivates us to action, and then, through the action, we communicate our love. Without the action, we can say we have love all we want, but the truth is that we are empty. “Bankrupt,” as the verses put it.
Third, love is part of character. Ultimately, this is the core of love. Yes, God’s love motivated Him, and God communicated His love through His act, but where did the love come from in the first place? It was part of His character. He loved us not because of who we were, but because of who He is. In this sense, love is a choice, willingly made, to give up oneself for another. It’s saying, “I choose to set aside my own needs and desires for the purpose of fulfilling yours, no matter the cost or even if you return the favour. I choose to love you.” Love is not a wimpy feeling that comes and goes. Sure, that feeling of attraction is nice, but it shouldn’t be the basis for anything. Love should be concretely laid down in the foundation of our heart so that, despite external circumstances, it remains. Love is permanent; it “never dies.” And that’s why divorce rates are so high, and why so many marriages and other relationships fail. It’s why so many children are distanced from their parents, and why so many friends are estranged. We, as a society, have replaced the concrete choice of love with the feelings associated with it. We’d rather base a relationship off of the fluttery feeling in our stomachs than off the conscious choice to love. We pray for God to bring the right person to us, when really what we need to ask God for is that He teach us how to love the people already around us. If we learn to love, then it doesn’t matter who God brings our way. Sure, I believe that God orchestrates people’s lives to bring them together, but I don’t believe He makes perfect matches. Even the most perfectly aligned puzzle pieces will still conflict at some point, and that is where love must be at its strongest. We must love people not only as long as you don’t conflict, but also through the conflicts.
So, I hope that you’ve found a broader meaning of the word “love” this Valentine’s Day. May you love the ones you are committed to despite the pain they may sometimes bring, and despite their humanness. Remember, we’ve all got faults. So, instead of investing in a bunch of flowers that are going to die, or a box of chocolates that will soon disappear (especially if I’m around), why not try investing in something more concrete? Try true love. It’s much more dependable. It takes time and effort, but it’s worth every penny. And then some. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I wish you all the best.