For many, February is seen as a time of love.
Saint Valentine’s Day takes place mid-month and is traditionally the day that people show their romantic love and affection for one another by sending cards and gifts.
Interestingly — according to Wikipedia — it is said to have ‘originated as a Christian feast day honouring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and, through later folk traditions, has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.’
As a young girl, I dreaded Valentine’s Day as it would trigger my teenage insecurities and highlight my singleness.
Today, my husband and I don’t really participate because it’s so commercialised. But although many of you reading this might like to engage with the celebration, I’m sure we aren’t alone in thinking that way. Some might even question, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’
Despite our lacklustre approach to Valentine’s Day, February is still the month of love for our family. It’s in February that we celebrate our wedding anniversary — 17 years today, actually — as well as the birthdays of both our daughters, our niece and our son in love.
Taking time to reflect on the richness of each life, this month really is a time of thanksgiving and festivity.
But if we believe some of the stories about how Valentine’s Day began, we see that at the heart of them lies self-sacrifice and love towards others. It is this kind of love that makes the world go round.
Made to love
God didn’t create us without feelings and emotions. We were made to love and be loved.
Because we’re created in the image of the One who dwells in perfect love — the Trinity — our nature as divine image bearers means we naturally desire desire fellowship, companionship and affection. This is why the pain of loneliness can cut so deep.
This kind of love cannot be defined by a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates that are limited to one day a year. It is the life force of humanity and — like the eight glasses of water we need to drink each day to keep hydrated — we require it consistently.
Sadly, the individualistic, self-sufficient ways of western culture feed on our belief in self-preservation.
We build walls and practise behaviours that keep people at arm’s length — singing songs that declare, ‘Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?’ (‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’, Tina Turner, 1984).
We live this way in an effort to avoid all risk of pain and heartache.
Writer and Christian apologist CS Lewis said in his book The Four Loves:
‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
‘Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
‘The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.’
To love is to embrace vulnerability boldly. And that is deeply spiritual.
Professor Brené Brown puts it like this, ‘Spiritual connection and engagement is not built on compliance, it’s the product of love, belonging, and vulnerability.’
The beginning and end of Jesus’ life on earth show His incredible vulnerability. Throughout His short life He made Himself vulnerable by loving and walking with the defenceless people around Him —frequently opening Himself up to disapproval and misunderstanding.
Despite being the Saviour of the world, Jesus demonstrated the power of vulnerability.
He was vulnerable to temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-4). He was vulnerable physically (Luke 22:63-65), and He was vulnerable, too, to emotional pain (Matthew 21:12, John 11:33-35, Luke 22:44).
After His glorious resurrection, the evidence of His loving vulnerability remained in the scars that helped convince those who doubted (John 20:26-28, Acts 1:3). And He lovingly calls us to follow Him, participating in this life-giving, courageous ministry. He invites us to love and be loved.
Although it’s natural to limit our definition of love to romantic relationships — or to the relationship we have with our parents, siblings or children — the very nature of God tells us that it’s far more inclusive than that.
1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that everything we do, whether it appears spiritual or sacrificial, is nothing if it isn’t fuelled by love. Every friendship, every act of service, every moment of worship — when connected to our created purpose — is rooted in love.
So, if you are feeling unloved in this season or have built up your walls of self-preservation to protect your heart from being hurt, I challenge you to lower those walls.
With eyes fixed on our Saviour, step out with love towards someone else. You may feel vulnerable. You may even feel silly. But you never know how much that person may need to experience the genuine care and support of a friend.
And if you’re thinking, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’, I say, ‘Everything!’