The dreaded, but anticipated day had arrived– Valentine’s Day. Flowers started to arrive at my sorority house and I wishfully hoped that even one little flower was for me. The table in the foyer had a few dozen roses or more, single roses with notes, a balloon bouquet… You get the picture. I did like flowers, but more I liked the idea of having a valentine. On this day, I would create a short film in my head. It started playing like this: I am sitting in the dining room studying and someone calls my name. They say, “Erin, there are flowers for you!” I am surprised but curious. I walk excitedly to the flowers near the front door and read the card. It says, “From your secret admirer.” (Of course, it is from a secret admirer who I want for an admirer.) On the other hand, the card might say, “I have been wanting to let you know… From —–” (It is from the guy I have a crush on who is now falling in love with me.) On the other hand, it could say, “I am sorry about everything. I was wrong. You are my dream come true. Love, —–” (From the guy who broke up with me a long time ago. I had said to him that I understood and that it was a mutual break up.)
Love feels …
Of course, none of those scenarios happened, except in the short film in my mind. During this “day of love,” love seemed to be something, which would make me feel special, and wanted. Love was to be in someone’s thoughts continually and to have their world revolve around me. Love would make me feel safe, secure, happy and accepted. (It sounds like it would have solved all of my problems!) When I did have a “valentine,” cupid often left me discontent or disappointed. It was never as dreamy or satisfying as the movies. Life would then go on and the days would return to normal, “everyday” days. So, is “love” really a feeling, better than all other feelings? If so, why does it seem to leave an empty feeling at times?
Love is received
This “emptiness” started pointing me to a different kind of love– a fulfilling and more complete love. I was curious when I read this:
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1John 4:9-10
The originator of love demonstrated His love to me. His love was acting, a giving love. Love and action seemed to be intertwined, even inseparable. “For God so loved the word that He gave…” The beginner of love shared His love with me by giving His Son. It was a sacrificial action, intentional manifestation, and a tangible desire for my very best. This is not an empty love. To be the recipient of this kind of love would change me forever. Realizing I did nothing to deserve His love, made me utterly grateful. I was discovering that true love produces gratefulness, not emptiness.
Love is growing
So many days I still feel deficient in love. I don’t feel like I am loved or I don’t feel like loving my family. Naturally, I don’t like sacrifice. I like to be first and shown love first. When I am at odds with my husband, my love comes up short — often feeling conditional and limited towards him, resulting in the preoccupation with my self and my needs.
Then I find that God’s love, when received, takes seed and soon grows and blooms. His love cannot help but bear fruit. One verse puts it this way:
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… Galations 5:16
Some say there should be a colon after love. It would then read like this:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…
In other words, love has a form. The form is fruit produced by the giver of love. The fingerprints of His love are in joy, in peace, in patience, in kindness, in goodness, in faithfulness, in gentleness and in self-control. This is something I desire to grow in me, and instead, give away and pass on to my husband, my children and to others.
This is what is amazing about true love– it is offered to us; and when received, it fills us– producing something beautiful. Fruit, though, takes time to grow. An apple is not grown overnight. A flourishing apple orchard takes time. The stamp of His love is seeing this produced in our lives– some fruit more quickly at times, but usually, more slowly, over time. This gives me hope, that even though I don’t always see this kind of fruit in my life it can still grow in my life– yielding the blooms of love. Being loved- produces love. Love grows love.
Love is shared
In the day-to-day world, life is busy and it can can be difficult to share love or have any space for others. On the other hand there are times when I feel left out, looked over or not included– producing a familiar emptiness, if I am not careful. One thing I have learned since that Valentine’s Day in my sorority house many years ago, is that I don’t want to stay in this place. The best remedy for this is to share love, even when I don’t feel I have the space or feel loving. True love grows also by passing it on. Just as God sacrificed His own Son in love, love will always be given away, even when it seems impossible to do so.
Corrie Ten Boom tells a story in her book, Tramp for the Lord, that describes how difficult it is to love like this. Her sister had died in the concentration camp and her place next to Corrie in the overcrowded bunks was empty. This was the space reserved for her sister, whom she loved dearly. This was the space her sister spent her last days. The space – in the terrible, filthy, death filled conditions, was so small that the women slept sharing a pillow, face to face. A Russian woman came into the barracks, and to most, she was unlovable and unwanted; yet she needed a place to lie down. Everyone turned her away. That was the normal and easy thing to do. Who wanted to give up their space, when really they had none? Corrie invited her up and gave her space, her sister’s old spot, sharing her pillow with her, face to face. Corrie knew this was a new person to love and share God’s love with. Love was blooming and shared even in the worst of conditions.
I am incredibly challenged and encouraged by this story. Choosing and sharing love fills spaces. It fills the emptiness.
Love is a gift
This Valentine’s Day I feel I have a better idea, of what love is, even though some days have empty places. And some days I forget this and I don’t feel like I have enough to give. Love is a gift.
Love is something we receive. Love is something that grows in time. Love is something that we share. Love is a four-letter word, g-i-f-t. Love is a gift.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
Where does this Valentine’s Day find you?
Where are you challenged by this kind of love? Where are you encouraged?
Who can you demonstrate love to today? Who do you need to show love to in this way?