What is love? Is it sweet heart candies that say “I love you”, “Be mine” or something more for you this Valentine’s Day?
Falling in love is both exhilarating and terrifying all at same time. For in one fell swoop it can be beautiful and completely frightening the next. It’s like a roller coaster of emotions, but true love requires sacrifice which is so much more than a feeling or a range of emotions.
It’s love that makes us most vulnerable. It takes courage to let go and wait for what’s on the other side for love. To fall means to drop or descend under the force of gravity. In falling something is often lost, but even the trees have a future to gain when they sacrifice their leaves in the fall. They show us just how lovely it is to let go for spring. Yet, we fear picking up the pieces of our broken hearts when we fall in love. We fear losing ourselves to sacrifice, but that’s true love.
My wise friend, Wayne use to remind me often that there is “No greater happiness in this life than to love and be loved.” Initially, I’m not sure I agreed with him. But my dear friend, Wayne was a wise old sage. In time, the love and wisdom he exuded, over shadowed me like the Holy Spirit over shadowed Mary in the gospel of Luke. For his words took root and something new was conceived in me. A new conceived truth that changed me and my worldview long before I knew Jesus.
Wayne didn’t just say these words. He lived his life by them and it was evident to all who were blessed to sit in his presence. He’s the first man I ever saw Christ in. His smile lit up the room and his eyes sparked like the lights on Christmas tree. I always looked forward to seeing him and conversing with him. He just exuded love to me.
He loved me, encouraged me, and challenged me to risk for the sake of love. He would push me as far to the edge as I was willing to go. He’d say things like “if you leap there’s always a net”. He was full of little sayings that packed a punch and melted my heart all at once. He knew scripture like the back of his hand. And he so loved God and knew God so loved him. And it showed. Meeting Wayne literally changed my life.
Only my journey with him was short. For as quickly as he entered my life, he suddenly left by an unexpected death. Funny how so often his words of love and wisdom fall off my lips and roll out my mouth even in places like Peru.
I have that very saying hanging on the wall in my bedroom. It’s been there for years and I look at it often. I am reminded of the simple, but important lesson Wayne taught me oh so long ago. I wonder why we all make it so hard. Why I make it so hard.
For it’s love that we all seek. It’s love we long for and love we yearn to fill our hearts and souls. Why do we attempt to fill our longings with counterfeits and not true love? You name them, and claim them, we all got them. There are no saints on this side of the pearly gates. We are all sinners living with our counterfeits of love.
Toward the end of my father’s life, he asked me a question that stop me in my tracks. “Lisa, What is mom going to do with that?” “With what Dad?” I responded. “That” he said, as he pointed to his bath robe hanging on the wall. “What would you like her to do?” I asked. “Tell her, she can do whatever she wants, give it the poor if she wants. I don’t care.” He said. (It’s the one thing she kept & it still hangs in that very spot).
My life changed in that moment, because my heart changed. Again, it was a conversion and conception of sorts. I remember stopping, taking a breath and being more present than I had ever been before. What I heard in his words were that he was completely aware, that he could not physically take the robe with him into the next life. Of course, my mind knew that all along, but something in my heart, now knew it to. It was a ten inch drop from my head to my heart regarding the physical and material things of this world we collect so much of.
The hearing and the witnessing of the words he spoke. The tangible, material nature of the robe. The thoughts I watched him ponder, as he awaited death. The knowing I had that my father’s death was near. I understood at a very deep level in my soul that love is the only solid thing we keep with us when we travel to the next life. Everything else passes away. This was long before I’d given away most of what I owned, but the start of a foundation none the less in grasping this deep reality.
In that moment I remembered my friend Wayne and his words to me so many years ago. “Lisa, allow yourself to love and be loved, for their is no greater happiness.” I believe in that moment my father was living it. Wayne’s words hung in the air, as I knew the presence of God was as close as my very breath.
Love is the only thing we keep when we leave this place and are called home by a loving God. And yet, we still fear what we might lose when we fall in love. If we are living a righteous life, on the path of holiness, and growing in relationship with Christ then it’s love we are growing in and journeying toward. Therefore, there’s nothing to fear.
So again, why do we fear love here on earth? Is it truly love that we fear? Or that another person, including God might truly see us? For truly we are all imperfect, flawed and broken human beings regardless of what’s on the outside. We attempt to hide what’s on the inside. Somehow we think our labels, education, salaries, material possessions, titles, knowledge, and perfectly crafted bodies will bring us happiness and makes us more acceptable, lovable, and hide us from all our shame and fear. We use humour and the changing of the subject, as a source of deflection to hide our vulnerability and fear during conversation. In reality, it never brings love, but robs us of the very love we seek.
I believe more than anything, we all desire to be known, to be seen, and to be loved at the deepest part of our hearts and souls. Yet, we run and hide behind all theses masks. But our hidden hearts remain restless, empty, and leave us hungering for more.
We allow our fears to run wild in our minds. And when fear shows up, she brings her siblings anxiety and shame. They come with questions like what if I’m not accepted? What if I look foolish? What if they laugh at me? What if she thinks I’m weird? What if I don’t get the job? What if I don’t get an A or the promotion? What if they think I am weak, not smart, or can’t sing? What if he never calls again? What if I’m not asked to be a part of that ministry?
What if, what if, what if? The problem with the category of the what “if’s” is you’ll never know. It becomes a place that holds us stagnant and keeps us paralyzed from ever moving forward and accepting the amazing love God has in store for us. It’s like living in a stagnant pond with no oxygen. No life can grow there, and if there’s no life, there’s no love. It’s as simple as that.
So why we don’t embrace our unique God given specialness is beyond me. The most ironic thing of all is why on God’s green earth do we want or desire to be seen as something or someone other than our true selves? That takes so much work and it takes an exorbitant amount of our energy to run and hide our true selves. Peace and freedom only come from being who God created you to be.
This Valentine’s Day seek to be you and no one else. For God loves you just as you are, in this very moment without all the masks. For He knows your true self. In fact, it’s He who created you that way! So seek His love to guide you the rest of your days. Accept the love He has for you.
So what is Love to you? Maybe it’s a return ticket to Peru. Text messages that say “how are you?”, “thank you for being a wonderful role model & disciple of Christ”, Spanish words with “now you build a sentence” encouraging you to learn the language. A container of soup to go for your mother. The words of “I’m sorry”, “I understand now”, “Thank you for inviting me into your tribe”. A beautiful sunset, a beautiful sunrise, a card in the mail, an invitation to breakfast, accepting the baby you’ll never have because there’s a different plan for your life, giving away what you own, the eucharist and anything and everything that you know to be good, true, and beautiful. To me it all says “I love you”.
Whatever love is to you, accept it. Open your heart and receive the love God has in store for you. It comes through His people, His creation and in His word & sacraments. I truly believe if we could accept the love God has for each of us we would all experience an catastrophic aortic aneurysm and bleed out. Now, maybe that’s not the image you desire to see this Valentine’s Day, but that in fact is the kind of love God has for you. It’s that dramatic and it’s a force like no other force on earth.
Literally, the love God has for all of us is so great that if our hearts could fully accept the love they would burst and explode out of our chests. So why hide from the God who loves you that much?
He’s the lover and friend who never leaves. And when you give Him room, a blank check, and surrender. He will have His way with you and you will know the love and sacrifice He made for you and you alone. His hands, His breath, and His ways are like no other lover. He’s reckless with love. It’s an overwhelming love affair. It’s undeniable, indescribable, exhilarating, passionate love and there’s absolutely nothing like it, but one things for certain. It will set your heart on fire. Are you ready for that kind of love?
If so, make him, your one true Valentine. Invite Him into your heart. It’s He who is seeking you. He desires to be yours. I’m grateful I’ve made Him mine! How about you?
St. Valentine pray for us!