LOVE AT ITS TRUEST

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    Of course, Valentine’s Day is pure commercial hype. A lot of people make a lot of money from Valentine’s Day: florists, jewelers, restaurants, hotels, malls, producers of concerts and shows, artists of all persuasions, RTW sellers, pastry shops, chocolatiers, perfumeries, and in general, all manner of business related to delighting and deceiving the female ego. How utterly wicked. How deviously clever. How sinfully utilitarian. We know all that! But who cares? Who wants to throw a wet blanket on Valentine’s Day, anyway? We all want to be conned because it’s so much fun to be conned on Valentine’s Day!

    I didn’t bother to google the roots of Valentine’s Day but I’m sure it had pagan origins. Well. So does Easter (from Eastre, the name of a goddess associated with spring), which was later on “adopted” as part of the Christian calendar. Let’s not waste time looking for someone to blame for Easter either — although a convenient person to blame would be Constantine the Great who made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in 324 AD. Good old Constantine always gets blamed for pagan, macabre things that have surreptitiously crept into Christian traditions. But for all we know, it might’ve been the traders and merchants who invented, Christianized, and peddled these “special days” to earn some luscious lucre from them.

    But please. Let’s not be cynics and skeptics. Cynics and skeptics are some of the dreariest, tiresome creatures on earth. Let’s be incurable romantics! Let us love with open wallets and reckless abandon! We might die poor, but we will die happy.

    Love is certainly worth celebrating…and commemorating. It’s thrilling. It’s titillating. It’s always a breath-stopper to see a beautifully-wrapped gift or a huge bouquet of roses, specially chosen for you! Nothing criminal about setting aside a day for surprising and spoiling the woman you love. There’s an unwritten code here: Valentine’s Day is really for women — but it’s the men who spend. In the same vein, a wedding is really for the bride — not the groom. The clearer that is to a man, the less problems he will have with his woman. Chisel that in granite. Etch it in steel. Tattoo it on your forehead, gentlemen. It’s way, way cheaper to spend for a bouquet of roses than to placate a fuming girlfriend or wife. Way cheaper.

    But seriously, what kind of love are we celebrating on days like Valentine’s? I think, aside from all the commercial hype (which is kinda nice, anyway), we should celebrate love at its truest. The kind that makes us forget how much we love ourselves — and shows how much we love someone more. And that someone had better be God, first of all. Love God first of all — and the overflow will always, always be good, uplifting, and true.

    God’s love heals. Most of us were deeply and seriously hurt in the past — either as helpless children or as hapless adults. There are wounds that still fester and damage our relationships up to now. I’ve known people who are really, really bad at relationships — their EQ is a figment of their imagination. To the people around them, it’s non-existent. They’re like paper shredders who can shred you to ribbons (I’ve been called that by our son), or army tanks that flatten everything in its path. When you’ve gotten weary of being annoyed with people like that, take a careful look at their past. You might discover that they were hurt, and are still hurting, that’s why they’re experts at hurting others. As I always tell my kids, “It’s NOT an excuse. It’s an explanation.” Was it John Maxwell who said it so well? “Hurting people hurt others.” Something like that.

    Well, God’s love heals. It heals the pain that we inflicted on ourselves. His love heals the pain that others — wittingly or unwittingly — inflicted on us. God’s love heals the pain that boomeranged on us when we hurt others. There’s no such thing as accidental pain. Every kind of pain we’ve experienced was allowed by God to make us better, stronger, richer. Not all pain comes from God — but all of it was allowed by Him to mold our character, to make us more like Christ. I believe that God’s love can powerfully heal us once we’ve recognized this fact: the pain that I use to accomplish God’s purposes is transformational and productive. So don’t waste the pain.

    God’s love builds up. It makes us discover how we are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. It makes us see the sterling qualities that God has given us: integrity, compassion, generosity, kindness, gentleness, etc. God’s love develops God-confidence in us, not self-confidence (which will ultimately fail us). God’s love makes us build up others, as He, Himself, builds us up! His love transforms us from insecure, envious, petty individuals into people who are secure, grateful, encouraging, and big-hearted.

    Love isn’t supposed to boost our egos. Love should not be used to control, manipulate, or take advantage of others. Love should not be used to collect people, or make them our trophies. We should not use love as the world does. The world treats its objects of love as commodities to be displayed, bartered with, hoarded, used for its whims and caprices. Anything that masquerades as love will eventually tear down and destroy people. So be careful.

    God’s love stretches us. We are all selfish. Left to our own devices, we will always choose what’s to our best advantage, what will benefit us most, what will cause us the least inconvenience. By nature, we’re not willing to put the interests of others above our own. That’s why Eve ate the fruit. That’s why Adam didn’t stop her. And that’s why Adam ate the fruit himself.

    Our selfishness goes all the way back to Genesis — when there was absolutely no reason to be selfish! Imagine, God had generously provided the Very First Couple everything they needed for a wrinkle-free life! They could eat from any tree in Eden, except one. Except one. And yet, because of their selfishness, Adam and Eve just had to eat from that one tree. I don’t think any of us would’ve done better if we were in Eden ourselves.

    Many times, I’ve been told that Adam probably kept silent and caved in — ate the fruit, too — because of his love for his wife, and his desire to please her. Well, that’s what my bible teachers said. On the contrary (and this is just my opinion), I think that Adam ate the fruit because he also wanted it for himself. Just like Eve, he thought that God was depriving him of something really good, and he wasn’t about to miss out on it.

    God’s loves stretches us to look beyond our selfishness because selfishness severely limits us, boxes us in, makes us puny and inutile. When we’re selfish, our world becomes so small. When we’re selfish, we will move only when it’s beneficial to us, if we get the credit for it, and only if we can profit from it. But God’s love stretches us to do more; makes us reach out to others, so they can also do more. God’s love stretches us, magnifies our talents, and multiplies our resources so we can help others fly!

    When God’s love motivates us, there’s no limit to what we can do, where we can go, how we can help others. Let’s not box ourselves in with our selfishness. We must let God’s love stretch us — over and beyond what we thought we could ever accomplish.

    Remember: God’s love heals. God’s love builds up. God’s love stretches us beyond our limits. This is the kind of love we should give, the kind of love we should celebrate — each and every day of our lives.