OK, I know it's a bit of a cliché to do a post about love the day after Valentine's Day, but I've been thinking lots about love, having done an assembly on it this morning, and preparing to preach on it at a friend's church on Sunday afternoon.
Valentine's Day is such an odd thing, isn't it?! I have a few friends who seem to really go for it, and they buy each other gifts and flowers and go out for a meal. And yet most of my friends seem to not really bother with it at all. I'm not sure how I'd feel about it if I was part of a couple, because I never have been! I suspect my view would be "I know it's all a lot of commercialised, over-hyped nonsense and we should just ignore it, but hey, a girl can never have too many flowers or chocolates." (Shallow? Who? Me?) Oooh oooh oooh I've just had a great idea - Valentine's Day Shoes. Yes. Any man who bought me a pair of shoes every Valentine's Day would be in my good books for a loooong time. *goes a bit daydreamy*
I was amused recently because at a Diocesan meeting a while back we were told that the next but one meeting would be on Feb 14th. There were instant murmurs of disapproval (all from men, interestingly!). They mostly seemed to be of the "I can't come to a meeting on that night or my wife will kill me" persuasion. At the next meeting we were told that the date had been changed to Feb 12th which I was much more put out about - I am clearly far more likely to have pressing plans on Pancake Day than on Valentine's Day!
So is love really all you need? And what has it actually got to do with it? And is it really all around? I was talking to the young people at school this morning about the limitations of our English word 'love'. Here are just a few of the things that I love - red wine, my best friends, going to the theatre, my church family, crisps, God, long hot baths, my parents, shoes, holidays, my Godchildren, country pubs, my grandma, real ale, playing badminton, my brown boots, chocolate orange. I hope it will be perfectly apparent that I don't love all of those things in the same way (and that I didn't put them in order of importance!).
The Bible says that God is love. Not just that he loves us, or that he knows about love, or that he wants us to love, or that he shows us how to love. He IS love. There's no way for him to do anything other than to love - it is his very nature. He just can't help himself. The Bible also says that God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus to live and to die for us. That's love beyond anything we can possibly imagine. That sort of love makes my head hurt just trying to imagine it. There's a line in the Ben Cantelon song 'I've found a love' that sums it up - "I've found a love greater than life itself."
I decided 23 years ago this year to give my heart to Jesus. I was bowled over by his love - completely and totally overwhelmed by it. It's the best decision I ever made and I haven't regretted it for a second. I have loved Jesus every moment of that time. I've loved him when life has been great and when it's been tough. I've loved him when I've been well and when I've been ill. I've loved him while walking alongside friends going through unspeakable tragedies. I've loved him while laughing so hard I've almost peed my pants. I've loved him when I've felt scared and alone. I've loved him with tears pouring down my face watching the news. I've loved him when people I've loved have died. I've loved him when friends have had the joy of new lives coming into their lives. Some days it's been easy and some days it's been really hard - on those days it's been a decision made through gritted teeth. Anyone who has ever loved will know that there are times when it has to be a choice, when we choose to love even though we don't really want to.
Why have I loved him? Because of his love for me. Because it blows my mind that someone could know everything there is to know about me and still love me. Because he sees me as I am but also as I can be. Because of the cross.
There's an awesome Bethel Music song called 'One Thing Remains' which has a line repeated over and over again - "Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me."
My Valentine's gift from me to me. Because I'm worth it! (God says so!)