Another Valentine’s season is here, having begun sometime after New Year’s, as retailers lead us from one holiday to another, like rest stops on the highway of life. At this time of year, we’re urged to know love as an FTD bouquet, a kiss which begins with “k,” a rich meal at an overpriced restaurant with staff too stressed to nurture us as we deserve, or an abundance of sweets which become cloying after one too many bites.
For some, that’s Valentine’s Day every year. For others, Valentine’s Day is just another day to live through: the same every year, familiar and consistent, though rarely warm and comforting, as we imagine love is truly meant to be.
In certain spiritual circles, people speak of love as if it were a magic elixir able to heal every hurt at the wave of a wand. As a pastor, I’ve witnessed its effects: The man on his death bed who choked back tears when he admitted he couldn’t wait to leave his nagging wife and see his childhood sweetheart, who died years before. Or the young woman with ashy hair, who repeatedly yanked her sleeve over a large, purple bruise on her arm, as she tried, in trembling tones, to justify her boyfriend’s unnecessarily strong grip. Or the children in faded clothes who smelled of ashes and perspiration, who stared longingly at another’s chocolate birthday cake. When I asked whether they wanted a piece, they nodded, wide-eyed, a glow brightening otherwise distant gazes. Or the constant verbal barrage of anger, disgust and loathing some people shout at those they profess to love, saying things like, “I’m doing this for your own good, because I love you,” when the recipient of such vitriol feels anything but.
With all the talk of love, some people forget that love is a verb, an action, as much as an emotion, feeling or thought. Sometimes, love is presence. Perhaps we know people who rarely say, “I love you,” though when we’re with them, we feel their love flowing deep inside us, as an energy which nourishes and uplifts us. They delight in our company because of who we are, not because of what we do or have. They see us as truly worthy of love, and we feel it.
Gospel writers Mark (1:9-11), Matthew (3:13-17), and Luke (3:21-22) relate that kind of love in the story of Jesus’s baptism, when a dove, a symbol of love, alights upon him and God declares: “You are my beloved child, in whom I delight.” In that moment, Jesus is assured of God’s enduring, unconditional love, infinite compassion and ever-abiding grace. For the rest of his life, Jesus proclaims and offers that gift to everyone, wherever he goes.
This Valentine’s Day, Blessed Reader, no matter what your spiritual upbringing or beliefs, remember: You are God’s beloved, a delight to behold, and a blessing to love.
© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.