Love that is Real
You are loved. Whether you are single, married, divorced, or proudly emotionally disconnected, you are loved. The message of Valentine's Day is not about you, though. It's about everybody else.
The day most single millennials celebrate as Valentine's Day is really just narcissism day--and that's not a holiday. Unfortunately it's a regularly scheduled program. February 14 is, for most of us, a public announcement to the world of who you really are every day.
We think love is self-love
Here's the key. Love isn't about you. It never is. But our problem is that the American culture has confused true love with self-love. We think we love someone simply because they make us feel a certain way. We con ourselves into thinking we know what love is when really all we know is self-worship.
What we need is a true definition of love because we need to be rescued from our own presuppositions and baggage. Love is the active movement of the will to choose someone else's good over and above your own. It's outward, not inward. It's long, not short. It's a covenant, not convenient. And most of all, it's Christian.
The only reason we can love at all is because God is love. My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast; it's my favorite for its wild theme of genuine love, a theme hard to find in stories these days. In the story, Beauty must love Beast for nothing he is or has done, for no persuasion and for no benefit of her own--she must simply choose to love him out of her own free will. And that, that pure love, breaks the spell he was under.
That tale helps us see something profound about love, and about ourselves if we are honest. The moral of the story is eloquently put by G. K. Chesterton. He said, "To be loved, one must first be lovable." Love isn't intrinsic. You and I don't deserve to be loved. But you say But I'm so awesome and funny and talented! Of course I do! Tell yourself to shut up. That's a lie you've believed for far too long. The single reason you have any redeeming qualities at all is because Someone else chose to love you and place His affection on you. Tell me that isn't Biblical (1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:19).**
Seeking their good
So we must stop loving ourselves and calling it loving other people. But we must also actively seek their good. Part of the definition I gave earlier included this word "good." What good? What is goodness? We know God is good, but there are a lot of things that are good--like happiness. Happiness is a good thing, but it isn't stable or dependable. It isn't an ultimate good (that's an important word).
What is God's ultimate good for us humans? It is to have people who enjoy Him more than they enjoy anything (or anyone) else--especially one's self! It is to maximize the amount of glory God gets from your heart and life as you live a worshipful, obedient life.
What does this mean for us on February 14? The purest honor you can pay someone--the purest love--is to seek to maximize God's glory in their life. If you haven't done that, you haven't loved, no matter how many butterflies you may feel.
This love happens in the marriage covenant, for sure, but only if it is intentional. Marriage is a union of two emotional, sexual human beings who have the imprint of God on their souls. It can work without a true definition of love, and we see it all around us. Two people "marry" and live together, have children, get sick of each other, hang on until the children are older, then divorce. Why? Because they weren't "meant" for each other? No. Because they married for all the reasons which were supposed to just be the cherry on top. They believed the lie that the ultimate definition of love is emotion and sex.
This holds profound meaning for us singles. They say true love waits, and while that's true it brings zero comfort to yearning singles. We need help waiting. What helps is this redefinition of love. It helps you see that love is work, a hard choice, and it is something you can practice even now--especially now, before the emotions and sexual connection takes over. How many married couples do you know who love each other but are just apathetic toward everyone else? That's not good. What is good is a couple who support each other as they sacrificially love their entire world around them. If you get the cart before the horses on marraige all you will end up with is a lack-luster relationship of two disenchanted people who realize love isn't that great after all.
But if you base your marriage on this true definition of love, then the ultimate reason for marriage isn't the cherry on top, it's the whole sunday. It has substance to persevere, to reach out and love others, to serve and be served. I think marriage is the union of two people who love God so much they lose themselves in their love for others, and when they do, they are there for each other to catch them when they fall, to refresh them when they falter. Simply put, I believe marriage is still outward, outward in the small circle of one family, but also outward from the family itself.
So singles, just because you don't have The Special One doesn't mean you can't love The Ordinary Many. In fact, if you don't choose to love others now, despite the way they make you feel, what's to prove you will later in a marriage covenant, when you have the potential to be distracted by a mis-use of the marriage relationship?
If we don't love now, our marriages are bound to be a sunday of just cherries. It will get old really quick, and we will all be jumping in our cars and running to Publix to get some ice-cream, bananas, chocolate, syrups, something--anything--to give us some substance, to give us an ultimate center for our marriages strong enough to hold us together.
Get over yourself and go love
Today is February 14. All you poor singles, stop moaning about being single. All you proud singles, stop bragging about your self-sufficiency being single. Remember, it's not about you. So just leave the first pronoun out in the cold today. Choose to spend some time today making someone else's life better as best as you know how. One day God may just give you that special one. But if you make patterns now, patterns of true outward-focused love, then when you marry y'all will be going somewhere, doing something, for someone else. How Christian! How Valentinian! How incredibly loving.
**footnote: as our culture kicks God to the curve, His common grace on our hearts is fading and we are becoming increasingly unlovable and unlovely. How ironic. As we fight for independence from God we see how much we really need Him--how worthless we are without Him (cf. Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live.)