Hearts and chocolate and diamonds – oh my! These are but a few of the love languages of February. A month to convey affection and messages of love and affirmation. I enjoy it all and delight in spreading warm wishes to those who just may be in need of a lift in spirits while attempting to fight off the winter doldrums. Enjoyable as it all is, if our expressions of love to one another are not more deeply rooted, the impact is fleeting, much like a beautiful cake. It is ordered for an important occasion with detailed specifications, usually crafted with roses, colorful characters or multi-tiered. While we may appreciate it, soon after it is devoured it is also forgotten. Yet, if we know the baker and the hours of preparation, time and expense behind the finished product, the cake becomes a representation, a symbol, of a meaningful relationship that will be remembered long after the cake and the celebration ends.
I am persuaded that love is a word that is too carelessly tossed around in our current-day culture. Like so many other things, it has become superficial and often cheap. We say, “I love it,” when we bite a cookie or try on a new pair of shoes. I am as guilty as everyone else. When we search the Scriptures, however, the love defined therein is much more hard-won. It is produced by years of commitment, shouldering one another’s burdens, fighting in the trenches together, and learning how to be kind in the midst of disappointment, anger, and yes, even resentment. At its foundation is grace, forgiveness, and mercy, combined with a willingness to be boldly direct, accountable, and clear in communicating needs and expectations. It requires consistent initiation of mundane comments: “Good morning,” and “How are you?” (and meaning it). It calls for stepping back and considering our own selfishness, short-comings, and sin. It is a love that will never be absolutely perfect or finished in this life time – yes, at times it will seem inadequate. I am convinced, though, that if we are willing to pay the cost of loving another in this fashion, we come close to what God intended for His people. For those who love us in this way, and for those whom we love in kind, there is a sense of loving the other – really loving the other – from the inside out, warts and all. It is expensive, but what a blessing when we are willing to invest and reap its rewards. I think it is then that we also begin to see a glimpse of what God’s perfect love for us must be like. We indeed have much to look forward to when we reach the loving arms of our Father.