Happy Valentines Day….I don’t love you!
Well, what I mean is, we have used the word LOVE so readily in our culture that the Annie Hall movie quote, I lurve you is actually necessary now. Thus, to my honey I say, I don’t JUST love you, I lurve you! And now it’s almost time for everyone to prove Love again, Valentines’ Day! Grocery stores are setting up tents for the harvested flowers, greeting cards are in place and dinner reservations are being made. Some lovers are timing engagements and weddings for this special cupid-day. And for some couples there is so much pressure to do and say a special thing, it can even become competitive!
My hubby of over 50 years does the usual Valentine gift thing but he also does sweet and funny things all year to show he is thinking of me. He has a great sense of humor and uses it well. For instance, he knows I like to snack on dry cheerios so sometimes when I’m speaking or teaching classes I may reach into my pocket and find a handful of cheerios and our thoughts connect. Or once I forgot my lunch at the clinic and he brought me a large paper bag but inside was a beautiful lunch on a china plate, wrapped in foil and special paper, with silver utensils and a bottle of fresh orange juice to drink in a crystal champagne glass. Also, when we were early married and living in a very cold shotgun house in the Heights, I was pregnant and up and down most of the night going to a freezing bathroom. He would put warm towels on the toilet seat so it wasn’t so uncomfortable for me! All sweet reminders of Love. Along with the traditional sweet gifts of Love to him, unfortunately, I do more torturous and funny reminders also…like mixing up his sock drawer with his underwear, rearranging his very organized desk or putting a rubber lizard in his shoe or his toothbrush under his pillow. I know, it sounds kind of mean but he laughs!
I like the rhythm of the many seasonal holidays we have, like Valentines Day. As children we usually made our own cards for friends and families and in fact I still have some cards my children made for me. My favorite was daughter Missy’s famous misquote on a card “Love means never saying you’re sorry” or son little Bobby’s drawing of Mickey Mouse with a heart! In schools today, the fear of being left out is rampant thus children are mandated to bring “cloned” type cards for everyone or, sadly, some schools are trying to ban Valentines Day, along with other long held traditions of our country. However, these special days are important for children. They offer connecting points for people, fun with creativity, volunteer moments, the making of traditions, celebrations and memories, and of course opportunities for marketing and making money! Valentines Day is one of those traditions with spiritual, legendary and fun holiday rituals. Sometimes Valentines Day even plays out like a Romeo and Juliet saga, offering all the drama, intrigue and choices made by passionate people in love. Couples wait with anticipation to see who will give them flowers or cards, who will call with sweet nothings, or who will take them to dinner. The holiday can sometimes become a huge test for young couples in love. Also, drama and pathos may occur should someone forget to acknowledge the day, or worse, send the wrong bauble to the wrong person causing a Valentines’ Day massacre of sorts to ensue!
Spiritually, St. Valentine is said to be one of the earliest martyrs for his faith. Pope Gelasius in 498 AD declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day but it’s still unclear who he really was. In fact, it’s thought that there were perhaps three saints named Valentinus and all were martyrs…they were killed for Love…their love of Jesus. A sad sentencing we see played out even today in some parts of the world. It is written that one of the St.Valentines was in prison and before his death he fell in love with a guards’ daughter who visited him in prison. He allegedly wrote the first love letter, signing “from your Valentine”…and, as we say, the rest is history, albeit sketchy! Anyhow, the holiday took off and became the expression of love and kindness we have today. It was in the 1840’s when Valentine Cards began to be produced.
What is noticed and has become more prevalent today is the use of the word LOVE for almost every situation. Oh, we all say: I love pizza or, I love coffee or, I love to ski or I love whatever but when we say I love you to people it seems to be thrown around more without real thought. When I was young it was a special word reserved for deep feelings of attachments and relationships with people. In fact the definition of Love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Nowadays, saying I love you seems as common as “Hello” or “Goodbye”. Recently, on the news a poor spouse was interviewed about the death of her husband and was crying because she forgot to say “I love you” before he died. Although, they seemed to have a great relationship and she obviously loved him, she was beating her self up for not saying those three words!
It has also become easy to say I love you, without having to attach any loving behavior or even a relationship behind the words. Last week I was in a grocery store and heard a shopper tell the checker thanks, I love you. I thought, Really?…hmmm?, you don’t even know her! This isn’t to say we shouldn’t show kindness and Love to fellow humans. However, it seems to me that the dichotomy between saying I love you with no actions behind the words can sometimes let us off the hook of actually living Love. It minimizes Love and also allows for rationalizing behaviors that can be hurtful or harmful. How many times has someone written I love you or even said it, with a smile, but without any nice behaviors attached to their words? It begs for the old phrase that our grandparents taught us: actions speak louder than words.
Perhaps the best written description for us of the types of Love is from C. S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”. Lewis gives us four categories of Love: affection, friendship, eros and charity; based on four Greek words for Love: storge, philia, eros and agape.
Affection-an empathy bond being the storge (greek) type love which is fondness through familiarity, family, parent/child, relatives. It’s a natural type love but vulnerable to forces of inattention or jealousy.
Friendship-friend bond being the philia (greek) type of love between friends sharing common values, interests, groups and activities. It’s an important type love but vulnerable to cliqueyness and pride.
Eros– (greek)- erotic bond of being in love in the sense of ‘loving’ someone. Lewis saw it not in just the sexual sense but as man being a rational animal when in love. He also saw the potential for torment and fury in eros and for the potential for eros to become a god in and of itself.
Unconditional–Charity Love– God’s love- or agape (greek) love. This is the Love that serves others, the love that puts your lovers’ needs first. This is the Love that doesn’t change regardless of circumstances. This is the Love God has for us and the Love we strive to have for others.
Love is special. Love is a choice. Love is also an action word. We make love. We are in love. We love someone. In 1 John 4:8 we read that whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. And John 15:12 actually commands us to love! And also in John 15:13 we are told Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Our greatest friend, Jesus, did just that for us!
The words in the verse: God is love are well understood but the reality is, God created love. God created all feelings and God loves us. The words of Love in the Bible are mostly attached to showing love: God’s love for us, Our love for God and the need for us to Love fellow humans. What sometimes appears to be happening in our society today is the word LOVE is replacing the verse God is Love. In some cases, it is even replacing God. People seem to Love and adore Love, as C. S. Lewis warned. People seem to Love everything, even if they disagree with it, perhaps because it may be politically incorrect not to Love everything! This direction is slippery as it slowly minimizes the power of God who is the origin of Love. Focusing only on Love, without direction toward God, can actually deflect us from God and the behaviors of Love. It can become prideful and thus it becomes easy to say I love you, without having to demonstrate any loving behavior, forgiveness, or mercy behind the words.
God designed and created Love. God has unfailing love for us…Psalm 6:4. God shows us love...Exodus 20:6. And God outlined the actions of Love for us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Also, for me, Love is an act of endless forgiveness towards all. Including myself!
So, let’s put our Love in action this Valentines Day and everyday…Pick up some flowers and candy for your honey and perhaps for someone who may be without a honey, bake a cake, go out to dinner, bring on the balloons, find thoughtful ways to express your feelings of Love, even if it’s cheerios in a pocket! Read the verses of Love in the Bible to someone, remembering that God loves us unconditionally and wants us to return that Love to others, just as He commanded.
And to my honey, I still say: I don’t just love you…
I. LURVE. YOU.