Such a simple word. Such a complex experience.
Contrary to the creators of Valentine’s Day, a dozen roses, a candlelit dinner or even diamond jewelry is not what love is about.
Human love is complex. And it means different things at different times with different people. We love our children in a different way than our spouse. And our spouse differently than our parents. And our parents differently than our friends.
Our society bombards us with simplistic, distorted images of love—romantic, parental and platonic. With no better model, we set these examples in our minds and compare our reality to them. But, something doesn’t add up. Instead of feeling “complete” we feel let down.
Our loved ones disappoint us. They hurt us. They reject us. They leave us. They forget our birthdays. They don’t respond the way we want them to. Our feelings get in the way. We think, “If he loved me, he would know better.” or “She wouldn’t do that if she loved me.”
Love can bring out the best in us, but it can also bring out the worst—our insecurities, jealousy, ego, need for control, past hurts, addictions and on and on. We unfairly expect the people who love us to make us whole, to validate us and to expertly navigate the complex inner workings of “us.” When they fail we feel betrayed. And often a dissonant duet of self-pity and self-righteousness crescendos in the background.
But, guess what? Our significant others, family and friends don’t do this because they don’t love us; they do it because they’re broken and imperfect too.
One of the most life-changing sentences I’ve ever read was the first line of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life—“It’s not about you.” (Really?! I kind of thought it was.)
This is so true when it comes to love. For contrary to what Hollywood (and society) tells us, there isn’t a man or woman on Earth who can “complete us.”
But there is One who can—Jesus.
He is our model of perfect love. When others let him down or treated him badly (and did they ever!), he didn’t get his feelings hurt, base his self-esteem on their behavior or harbor bitterness. He actually loved the offenders more. Even as He hung on the cross in anguish and betrayal, He said of his crucifiers, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
How could He do this? Because He knew who loved Him. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:10)
When we accept Jesus, God’s gift of love, an amazing thing happens—we’re set free to love others selflessly and sacrificially. It becomes less about us and more about Him. We find that true love begins where our feelings end. And we can let our loved ones off the hook for making us “better.”
For as we cherish the embrace of our Heavenly Father we whisper, “Abba, Father, you complete me.” And pretty soon, every day is Valentine’s Day.