“For what is love itself, for the one we love best? An enfolding of immeasurable cares which yet are better than any joys outside our love.”
I was out shopping early this morning, hoping to be back home in time to help my kitchen withstand the onslaught of sloshed milk and spilled cheerios that was sure to proceed as soon as the first set of small feet hit the floor. Of course, being mid-February, the whole retail world looks as if it faced a similar attack, as if a swarm of 5 year old girls converged, armed with glitter and paper hearts, and, leaving no square inch untouched, left behind a wake of pink and red and teddy bears and roses.
Valentine’s Day has long been at the bottom of my “holiday” list. Maybe because it so often seems to be a day when a woman’s relationship status is on display by the presence (or absence) of a bouquet of flowers on her desk: a loud announcement of one’s possession (or lack) of romantic love that on any other day seems ostentatious.
Maybe its because I’ve always felt reluctant to celebrate something so profound and personal as love, at the command of retailers who are hungry for a tide-me-over snack to get them from Christmas to Easter.
But I think it’s probably because, since I turned about 13, I’ve not been particularly enthralled with stuffed animals, hearts or the color pink and everybody knows that Valentine’s candy is by far the worst of all holiday treats. As if being in a fancy heart shaped box absolves the candy from it’s duty to actually taste good.
As I checked out my groceries, the friendly cashier told me she was planning her upcoming wedding and asked me how long I’d been married.
“Is it hard?” she asked.
Is it hard? What to say to a soon to be married 20-something year old? How about, “No, there is nothing easier than loving and living with the man of your dreams!”
No, that statement belongs on a Valentine, written in red script, accompanied by a box of sub-par assorted chocolates. Why? Because I’m just not romantic? On the contrary, my love of all things Jane Austin would soundly refute such a claim. In fact, perhaps I’m too romantic. Too unwilling to let superficial sentiment replace the reality of true romance. Too unwilling to accept mediocre chocolate in spite of it’s elaborate, eye-pleasing packaging.
Because there comes a point when every relationship must grow deeper than a Valentine can express, and we come to know that love, real love, involves sacrifice. And often, the sacrifice is easy, because it is buoyed by feelings of affection and admiration. But, sometimes, the sacrifice is hard, because it is weighed down by human imperfections.
Being unselfish is difficult for any length of time. Being patient when you’re tired and grumpy takes intentional effort. Thinking the best of the other instead of taking offense is challenging. Being sharpened by another is sometimes painful. Love is unselfish, and patient, and kind. It trusts, hopes, and perseveres.
And that takes effort.
So, “Yes, sometimes it’s hard,” I tell her. “But it’s worth it.”
It is always easy to love an object that has no blemish or disfigurement. But in that case, I think infatuation may be the more fitting word. My husband is the man of my dreams, but even in my dreams he is not a god, but just a man. When it comes to humanity, that which seems perfect, is that which we don’t genuinely know. It is when we know the depths of someone, having plain view of all their strengths and talents, but also of their failings and shortcomings, and we say, “I choose you,” that we can say we’ve actually loved.
And the same is true for any love, romantic or otherwise. Any true love. Because the basis of romantic love, is just love. Agape love. The love shown us by a God willing to sacrifice Himself (His perfect self) for us. The love He asks us to show, likewise, to one another. The love shown us by our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters, our friends and our spouses. You don’t have to be a sender or receiver of a dozen roses to possess this kind of love in your life.
It is a beautiful thing to love an imperfect being.
It is an overwhelmingly wonderful thing to be loved in spite of one’s imperfections.
Put that on a Valentine.
And don’t forget the candy.
Lindt Dark Chocolate Truffles in a brown paper bag will do.