I don't love Valentine's Day. Sorry. We don't go out to eat on February 14th. We don't do roses, chocolate, or gifts.
I bought my wife flowers last week. A spring bouquet with tulips, daffodils, and a sunflower. Why? Because she likes spring and sunflowers.
And because I said something stupid.
Love is the long, perilous work of giving your life to someone else. It's more than flowers on one day. It's the act of selflessness every day. It is not proven in the diamonds and gifts. It's proven in the times we utter regrettable words. The times we mess up, struggle to be happy, and want to scream.
I've learned something from mentors married for decades:
It's easy to buy chocolate and flowers. Try loving someone for 60 years.
The following is what I believe about love. It's an excerpt from my book, Loved & Sent. Happy Valentine's Day :)
I’m frustrated with the word love.
First of all, it is a cliché so overused in our culture that it’s empty of meaning. Love can be a fuzzy feeling or emotion. It can mean a romantic sentiment like passing notes to a high school crush. Or it can mean sex.
You can use the word love to describe how you feel about bacon or how you feel about your mother.
My second frustration with the word “love” is that the people who are defining it in our culture are the same ones who can’t make love work. Pop stars and movie stars write our love songs and romantic comedies. But when’s the last time you heard of a 50 year marriage in Hollywood?
The kind of love we’re most familiar with is based on a certain mutuality. Two people are attracted to one another. Love only exists when it is returned. It only grows when it is reciprocated. But what happens when it is no longer mutual? Or when it is one-sided? It’s often said, “We fell out of love.” There is an assumption that people eventually outgrow one love and move on to another.
There are a handful of words for love in ancient Greek, the language in which the Bible’s New Testament was written. A primary word for “love” in reference to God is agape. Agape isn’t “fluffy, puppy love.” It’s not just a feeling or an emotion. It’s not based on any conditions. (“Love me, then I’ll love you back.”) It is a verb. It is action.
This kind of love is the selfless act of giving yourself up for someone else.
A key example of this kind of love comes from the apostle John, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (I Jn. 4:10). God’s love is not mere sentiment. His love compels him to deploy his own Son on a perilous mission.
Love is ultimately proven in action. You only understand the power of the word after you’ve seen it done in real life.
Love is sacrificial.
It is costly.
It takes risks.
It gives without conditions.
It is recklessly generous.
It acts without the expectation of a return.
It is tenacious and patient (I Cor. 13).
The primary Hebrew word for love in the Bible’s Old Testament gets at a similar point. Hesed means “steadfast love.” It is a “stick-with-it” kind of love. It is “day-in-and-day-out.” Both biblical words for love are reflected in the traditional wedding vows:
“For better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
until death parts us . . . "
Love is proven when the dreamy romance is past. It emerges more in “sickness” than “in health,” and more in “poorer” than in “richer.” Love actively chooses to be selfless. It gives even when you’re annoyed or angry. It persists long after the honeymoon. In fact, genuine love grows in unpleasant challenges. It can only be proven when tested.
For a Christian, the cross is love’s ultimate symbol. We claim that the most explicit picture of love is a Roman execution device. Wood and blood; nail and spear. It is the brutal and horrific violation of justice, willingly endured by one man for the sake of a people rightfully labeled his “enemies.” Yet he treated them as friends. This is love in its ultimate and purest form.
Such love is too threatening to the old order of mutuality. Thus, Jesus’ unconditional expenditure of love was an offense to those who would keep score.
Strangely, love got Jesus killed. At the same time, his death is proof of that very love.
“Loved” is the passive form of the word. It means that someone else is the primary subject, the one “doing” love. “Loved” means that we don’t attain favor or affection from God. Instead it has been bestowed. We have been given worth and value. We are beloved. God has “done love” in Jesus Christ. By comparison, every other definition of love seems like cotton candy: empty sugar with no substance.