I Love You
|Two days ago, was the highlight of Hallmark holidays: Valentine’s Day – a day when school kids everywhere buy two dozen cards, chocolates and flowers become the currency of the day, and we celebrate romance and love. There are various stories of the day’s origins, and the most popular is that the day was commemorated for St Valentine of Rome who was martyred in 269 CE. I’m not going to go into the various myths and legends associated with it or how it became what it is today, but I want to emphasize this: no matter what this day has come to mean it was not meant to celebrate romance and “being mine”. It was about love – love in the Christian tradition. That means at its heart this day was about my emotional desire to promote your well-being and naming that you make my life richer and fuller. |
You can take your spouse or partner out to eat any day you want, get them flowers and chocolates, and even a $7 card to say what you are hopefully telling them about every day in your own words and actions. I have no desire to take that away from you. But if Valentine’s Day should be a celebration of anything it should celebrate our love and regard for all people – it should be a celebration of love and not a celebration of anyone’s unique beloved.
Over the last two decades, I have done what I can to make that a bigger part of my language and intention. Caroline and I tell each other “I love you” probably half-a-dozen times a day. My kids say it to us, and us to them, at least as many times. My 16-year-old son will call out “love ya” on his way out the door regardless if his friends are there… and why shouldn’t he? Those are only words, and yet they also name real intentions and affirmations. And that is just where it starts. It was awkward at first, but I started trying to say “I love you” to far more people and far more often… to normalize the idea that love is a larger concept than that which I reserve for my spouse. And I sign off of ZOOM in worship every week at First Light saying, “I love you all, have a good week, and see you again soon.” And I mean it… I wish to say on all my phone calls and in all my abiding relationships. I love you.
When and why did we decide love was reserved for intimate and romantic coupling relationships only? It is true that I love Caroline in a different way than most anyone else – but it is not true that my relationship with Caroline is the fullest expression of love. I have way more love than that to give, to express, and to name in the world. And we claim it as a fundamental truth of how we abide in relationship with God… for “God is love. Those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”
A favorite theologian of mine says this really well in one of my all-time favorite reflections of love:
“This is what love does. It does not make itself visible but rather makes others visible to us. Love does not exist but calls others into existence: for to exist means to stand forth from the background, to be brought into the foreground… Is this not the properly theological understanding of God? Not a being we directly love, but rather the depth present in the very act of love itself. Not as one who seeks to be glorified but as the cause of glorification itself? …Christianity has been called the religion of love not because Christians are more loving but because of the way that it transitions us from the idea that the highest truth is to be loved to the idea that the highest truth is love itself.” –Peter Rollins, Insurrection, p 120-122
So… I love you. And I wish to celebrate that love continually draws me to seeing you and hearing you and knowing you in deeper and more connected ways. And that is the gift that keeps on giving.