How’s your love life? Valentines Day gives us all the excuse we need to up our game and act upon our best intentions, which too often sit dormant waiting for “just the right time.” Boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, and romantics of all kinds actually buy the cards, send the flowers and present boxes of chocolates and other signs of affirmation and affection to the people they could have, should have, and would have, if they had simply gotten up the nerve to act on “matters of the heart” sooner. Many even dare to say those three little words, or scribe them on a card – “I love you.” They take the risk. It is not the response one receives that validates the action, it is the commitment one makes that validates the love. A teenager wanted to buy his girlfriend a bracelet for Valentine’s Day. He found just the right one. The jeweller asked him if he’d like it engraved with his girlfriend’s name. After thinking it over he told the man to instead engrave these words: “To my one and only love.” The jeweller, impressed by the wording complimented him and suggested he was quite the romantic. The young lad smiled back saying, “Not really, just practical. This way, if we break up, I can use it again.”
Before I said, “I do,” and wed my best friend, I may have felt the same way – not sure if the risk would be worth it. Many worry that if they commit to one person they may regret it; better to play the field, they tell themselves, and have the best of both worlds, a fun time and no long term promises. Yet guided by the right motives and rightly placed, commitment can bring the joy and contentment that gets missed when we fail to fully invest ourselves in another.
Speaking about a love that is more real and lasting than romance alone, Thomas Merton suggests, “Love is a certain special way of being alive. It is an intensification of life, a completeness, a fullness, a wholeness.” We don’t become fully human by chance, nor by leaving all the options open, but through the daily and practiced choices and personal commitments we make as we give of ourselves through acts of kindness, compassion and love to each other.
Jesus told his followers (Gospel of John chapter 15) that he was giving them a “new command,” to love one another. They knew that he knew it was not only important but impossible for them to actually follow through on loving others the way Jesus was telling them to love, if they simply kept at it the way they always had. Loving others long-term and honestly, requires a “selflessness” that we’re just not able to conger up, unless we rely on the help of One who is far more loving than any of us.
Jesus tells us, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my followers.” The absence of a world clamouring to shout out this affirmation says it all. We not only find it hard to love Jesus’ way, we seem to find it equally difficult to give up loving the way we’ve always loved, and try something new. Jesus’ love is something so radical that when he lived it before the world it wasn’t immediately understood. However, it seems to have made an impression, since people are still talking about it twenty one centuries later! Just maybe its worth trying — not because its romantic, but because its very very practical. It has been known to transform, and even resurrect a life from the dead. The only way we ever find and experience this love for ourselves is by trusting our heart to the God whom the bible says, “is love.” I believe it’s worth the risk!