Ah, February, the month of red and pink, chocolate and roses, kisses and cards… The month where we celebrate St. Valentine and… love.
What is love? Kindness, understanding, respect, integrity… I can name many virtues that show love. But what is love? Don’t you find it hard to define with mere words? Well, perhaps not so much hard, as we’d each choose different words to describe it. Whole love includes many aspects. Some see it as caring, others generosity, perhaps attraction, or fidelity, maybe some would say care and concern. The online dictionary says, “an intense feeling of deep affection.” I find that a pretty good summary. Still, I’m not sure words alone can capture love’s true essence. It may take a page, or maybe, two..
Finding that special someone is one of life’s greatest blessings. Most of us can agree: love brings us joy. Often when we’re loved, we feel warm, safe, and happy. Those intangible feelings that we find challenging to verbally pinpoint are better known through experience. And love comes in many shapes and sizes.
Here are some examples of different types of love:
As we work to define love, perhaps we can describe how it’s expressed. Evidence of what love is might be seen every day in the actions of parents, spouses, siblings, friends, and neighbors. We witness couples holding hands on a stroll around the block; families spending time together at the park, cooking, doing homework and playing games; moms offering hugs or leaving a happy note in a lunchbox; sisters listening about the latest breakup or loaning a favorite sweater; brothers standing by each other in a dispute or encouraging the younger one play quarterback in the neighborhood football game; friends sharing laughter at their favorite ice cream shop or driving out to rescue us when our cars break down; individuals generously donating to causes; groups rallying, walking, or polar-plunging to raise funds to help an organization in need; our offering forgiveness to others, or ourselves when we, too, make a mistake; our counting on God when we’re more prone to doubt… Yes, we do certainly understand and witness true love in our lives all the time.
From scripture we hear again and again, love is giving; a selfless giving of oneself to another.
Consider the legend of the pelican: a mother pelican will strike her own breast to feed her young in times of famine, proving she would sacrifice herself for them. I recently saw a magnificent painting depicting this Christian theme (thank you Fr. Jason). More ancient legends describe how a parental (often father) pelican might strike its young, killing them. The mother will then sacrifice herself, covering the young in her blood for three days which brings them back to life. The pelican has long since been a symbol of Christ’s own sacrifice--His flesh and blood is consumed in the Eucharist; His sacrificial dying to save us; in the piercing of His side, His blood pours out over us; His resurrection from death in three days. These legends are referenced in many writings from St. Thomas Aquinas to Shakespeare. …Fascinating. *
There are many more examples of one sacrificing for another out of deep love. These illustrate the more extreme forms of love. Yet, love is also present every day, with all people, in ordinary events. There are three typical ways we can show love through simple giving: financially or by sharing things of value, giving our time, and giving personal energy and prayers. Each of us have different resources available to us, but we all have a great capacity to give and therefore, to love. Let us not ignore that we may love through modest actions like holding open a door, smiling at someone, or praying for them. Let us also never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit working through us, through our expressing kindness toward another human being; I’ve seen a smile change a life.
Naturally, we may find it easier to love those we know and care about. At least in most cases, it takes less effort to love family and friends whom we like and with whom we get along. It’s not quite so easy to love strangers, ourselves, the person who annoys, frustrates, or downright hurts us, and the person who takes advantage of us, puts us down, lets us down, or disrespects us. Is loving these others possible?
Like an action, love is a way of being, and, a way of living. If one of our goals is to live a life of greater loving, here are some ways in which we can show more love toward more types people every day:
You may discover how a pattern of such giving (and loving) often lead to rewards not just for the recipients, but for the giver as well. You may find more tranquility and a happier spirit.
Finally, remember the love of God is pure, unconditional, and everlasting. It is beyond even the most wonderful, joyful love we’ve been blessed to see at times in our own lives. There is nothing else behind or in front of God’s love; there is nothing it means or does other than to just be love. And it’s given freely to each of us every day!
No matter how you spend February 14th, I hope you feel precious and valued, warm and cozy as if snuggled in a soft blanket in front of a fireplace. May you always know the warm embrace of God’s amazing love.
Here are some love-ly stories I recommend all based on LOVE:
Love is exciting – I recommend the novel – Yankee Stranger
Love is forgiving and accepting - I recommend the book - For One More Day
Love is universal - I recommend the song - Really not that Different
Love is in everyday - I recommend the novel - The Wedding
Love is lasting - I recommend the song - Love Remains
Love is mysterious and transcendent - I recommend a movie - many, but my favorite is Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Love Letter
Love is unexpected and surprising - I recommend the play - Beauty and the Beast
Biblical references on LOVE:
John 15:12 This is my commandment: LOVE one another as I LOVE you.
Ephesians 4:2 ...With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through LOVE...
1John 3:18 My little children, let us not LOVE in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
1John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us LOVE one another, because LOVE is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God... God is LOVE.
1Corinthians 16:14 Your every act should be done with LOVE.
1 John 4:16 And we have come to know and believe the LOVE that God has for us. God is LOVE; whoever abides in LOVE abides in God, and God in him.
1 Peter 4:8-10 And above all things have fervent LOVE for one another… Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
Jeremiah 31: 3 With age-old LOVE I have loved you
Ephesians, Chapter 5:1-2 So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in LOVE, as Christ loved us ...
1John 4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we LOVE one another, God abides in us, and His LOVE is perfected in us.
1 John 4:17 In this way, LOVE has been perfected among us… for in this we are just like Him.
1Peter 3:8-9 Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this [LOVE] you were called...
Romans 5:8 But God proves his LOVE for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
Psalm 36:5 Your LOVE, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
John 15:13 No one has greater LOVE than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Colossians 1:5 Faith and LOVE spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven...
Psalm 103:11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His LOVE...
Romans 5:5 ... because the LOVE of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
1Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, LOVE is kind. It is not jealous, [LOVE] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...
1Corinthians 13:13 So faith, hope, LOVE remain, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.