As I type this, I keep glancing over at my husband who is sound asleep. He had stayed up late helping me cut out tissue paper lanterns to decorate the church for the couples’ celebration tomorrow.
We even have some letters cut up and put up on the wall by our bed. I was only previewing it, seeing if I needed to make adjustments to the layout. I’ll have to take it down to bring it to church but right now, I think it is in an appropriate spot. I see those words hanging over Miguel and I can’t help but smile.
He will be up in a few hours to go to work. He is up at 4:15AM every weekday to commute 60 miles each way. His job involves physical labor. It’s exhausting. Yet he still drove me to errands after he came from work today and he patiently cut out a bunch of big paper flowers and tassels for me. He didn’t even complain about the fact that he’s been tripping over crepe paper and ribbons and string these past couple of days as the decor has piled up on the floor of our small bedroom. Yes, this is love.
I’m so blessed to have been surrounded by love all my life. From my parents, grandparents, family, extended family, friends and kind strangers. And now I have Miguel, who is just wonderful. I was raised in an environment that was full of encouragement, recognition and pats-on-the-back. I was commended for my victories and consoled for my failures. As for my weaknesses, they were acknowledged but not magnified. I heard all the verses and all the warnings and all the lessons they could give me. It’s as good an upbringing as I could hope for.
Conventional wisdom says this should translate to me being a well-rounded person with a healthy self-esteem. Feeling loved does that to you. It’s supposed to teach you self-worth and value. Over and over, the world has guaranteed and still guarantees that knowing that we are deserving of love should mean we won’t look for it in all the wrong places.
Yet one way or another, we still do. Or at least I did.
When I entered my teenage years, I already had a relatively good idea of what I was good at and what I was not. Even though I already felt loved and praised for all my accomplishments, I still craved validation for all the other things that I could not do. Blame it on puberty or the media or whoever because I know it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t the only teenage girl who dreaded Valentine’s Day. I remember being 16 years old, sitting alone in my college dorm room and looking at the 3 roses I got earlier that day. I should’ve felt happy. But instead, I was miserable because all I could think of was the fact that my other friends had gotten 5 or 7 or 10 roses. I had nothing against my friends. I just felt sorry for myself. Every other day of the year, I was pretty satisfied with myself but on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t help but feel inadequate. I had medals and trophies and a good GPA, but I wanted roses. The earthly guarantees of an outstanding upbringing had failed me. I wanted those roses so bad.
The Bible speaks of love a little differently than what the world guarantees. Scripture tells me that the greatest demonstration of love is the Love given, based not on the merits of the beloved, but on the merits of the Lover, God Himself. Remember all my accomplishments, all my strengths, all the things I have based my self-worth on? The Bibles says these are worthless to God. In fact, the Bible says I am undeserving of His Love, that there is nothing I can do to earn it. Receiving it validates nothing that comes from within me.
This Love however, says so much of God. It speaks to His nature. God is Love. That’s why the psalmists love repeating it. His love endures forever. His love endures forever. His love endures forever.
THIS IS LOVE.
The lettered words I had cut out are ultimately going to be put up in front of the church sanctuary. It comes from this verse:
1 John 4:10 (NIV) “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
THIS IS LOVE – demonstrated not by roses or chocolate, nor by romantic dinners and diamond rings. This is Love demonstrated by the cross. Greater love has no man than that.
This is love: †.
This is where those words ultimately belong, beside the cross.
I know now that all the love I’ve received all my life have been but reflections and extensions of this Love. I was blessed to have had people who had experienced this Love surrounding me as a child. They knew that all the love in the world, even the most beautiful ones, the most sincere, the most epic – are but imperfect replicas of the real deal. All of it is a preview, testing the layout, so to speak. So they loved me with more than just their love, but with Love coming from God. The more we experience God’s Love, the more meaningful and lasting the other loves in our life become. We love because He first loved us and because God is the source, I know the river will never run dry.
The world gives us a false guarantee. The key is not in knowing that we are deserving of love. The key is in knowing that we are not. When I realized this, I learned to stop looking at all the wrong places. I also learned to stop loving myself so much and start loving other people. Christ is enough. For all of us. There might be days when we forget that but it’s okay. He loves us anyway.
Now, I anticipate Valentine’s Day – reminding myself that every occasion (yes, even those so blatantly constructed to feed the consumerist society that we are enveloped in) is an opportunity to tell someone about the most amazing Love story ever.
Happy Hearts Day dear. God loves me and you.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. http://www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™’