I’m staring out the window at a blaze of glistening, snow enveloped white. This is not unusual for February, which regularly finds Albertans in a mid-winter torpor, buried under several feet of snow. I adore fresh snowfall, but we’ve had a lot of it, and right now the latest 25-30 cm dump is moving through the province with a vengeance.
For most, the high spot of February is, of course, the celebration of love we call Valentine’s Day. I find it significant that this holiday splashes brightly in the very depths of winter’s arctic heart. Deep, bold, passionate crimson set against pure and heavenly white. The origins of Valentine’s Day go back to the far reaches of the Roman Empire. Several saints, each called Valentine (a popular name at the time), were martyred for protecting persecuted Christians, and performing marriage ceremonies against Imperial decree. At some point, a pope decided to mark this with an official church holiday in February. Through the age of Chaucer, courtly love and chivalry, it became irreversibly attached to the expression of romantic love, evolving into the merchandized, consumerized frenzy of crazed one-upmanship and eroticism it is today.
Lot’s of people are really bent out of shape about their amorous situation as this time rolls around. Blessedly, I’m not one of them, not that some exhilaration on the romantic front wouldn’t be welcome. Valentine’s Day can put people in a real funk, because they measure their self-worth by the sexual/romantic desirability others place on them. Without the intimate dinner reservation, lace-edged expressions of devotion or wildly extravagant gifts, they’re convinced something is missing. Life is incomplete, because they are not the adored center of someone’s universe. They long to be ‘beloved’. Actually, all of us do.
Everyone craves love in their life, because love, in all its facets is so incredibly important. Family life, friendships and sexual attraction all define the territory of our significant interactions. Inscrutable and unfathomable, even within ourselves, its potentiality is nothing short of terrifying. All chocolates and flowers aside, nothing is as utterly formidable and treacherous as the jealous heart of desire. Very few things can derail your life faster or more totally than doting on something or someone you shouldn’t. Attraction quickly defaults to possession, and then obsession; spiritual nitroglycerin's rivaled only by the mania of vengeance. Only idiots trifle with the primeval capacity for passion in the soul of another.
Being ‘beloved’ is not just about acceptance or approval, success or achievement, but about being cherished for who we really are, on a very simple level. It is being esteemed, even adored, despite one’s fears and foibles and two left feet. ‘Beloved’ is a life-time-and-beyond commitment. It’s the very stuff of eternity… deep calling unto deep. We were formed to be ‘beloved’, and something deep within us knows it. Love is the primordial echo of God’s voice, testifying to our origins. In Jeremiah 31:3, the Lord issues a statement so profound, it is the foundation for all of our capacity to love and receive love.
“The Lord appeared from of old to me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.” Amp
A lot of things are exalting themselves as ‘love’ these days. There’s a snappy, politically correct hashtag trending: #Love is love. Actually, no. “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). In case we’ve forgotten, love is actually fully defined by its Creator, and anyone who wants to flow in this blissful, life-giving river the way it was designed, has to do things His way. Strangely enough, you don’t get to tell Him how it’s done. John, the gentle ‘love’ apostle, and a real bosom-leaner from way back, states it emphatically “But whoever keeps His commandments, truly, the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:5). What the Scripture is telling us, is that, in order for us to fulfill this hazardous potential of love we carry without breaking ourselves, we’ll need to pour over the owner’s manual with a fine-tooth comb. Anything this volatile and destructive requires maximum security. There’s a reason agape (God’s love), philadelphia (brotherly love), and eros (sexual love) are safeguarded so vigilantly by a moral code. Take all the ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’s’ very seriously. They are there for your protection. Protocols of righteousness provide a secure ground for ‘beloved’ to flourish in our lives. It’s one thing to be ‘a lover’. It’s quite another to be ‘beloved’.
Many people think they can harness and enjoy their love any way they chose, and to a point, they can. Unfortunately, when all the sowing and reaping is concluded, it’s not ‘beloved’ that is produced, but frustrated hopelessness and despair. Self-hatred abounds. We may be physically abused, soulishly embittered, or morally bankrupted by our own willful ignorance. Spend your love quotient wrongly, and it can kill you. The commandments surround us not to stifle our joy, but to teach us how to love with the undying purity and faithfulness of God Himself. They invite us to step into His protection. Come back to His heart, and be fulfilled. He knows how to handle that burning, violent crimson on a pristine background of white.
Right now, where do you find yourself as a ‘love-creature’? Is your capacity and expression being gratefully received and returned or suppressed and stymied? Go back to the lodestar. “Yes! I have loved you…” What a statement. We are still His valentine. We are His beloved. He looks at us and says “This is my beloved (one), in whom I am well pleased”. Don’t you know? You are unutterably precious, right here, right now, in whatever mess life finds you. No matter how frustrated we may be with the illusive love, we can always walk right back into the vast, open heart of love Himself.