Today’s the day. Today masses of people ponder one of the most precious gifts God has given with more intensity than on any other day of the year. Today people ponder love. Say what you will about the necessity or validity of this commercially produced and sponsored holiday. Perhaps you’re a Valentine’s Day hater like myself, or maybe you adore everything about February 14th – heart shaped pancakes and all. Whichever way your sentiments toward this holiday lean, the net effect the day has on each of us is the same, it begs us to consider love.
And because love is so certainly a gift worthy of consideration, I decided to lay my cynicism towards Valentine’s Day aside so I could do just that. While I was at it, I also gave some thought to why this particular holiday – a holiday built around the notion of love – has always given me such pause. The conclusion I’ve reached is really quite simple: Love can be downright terrifying.
Even from a very young age, I never carried any illusion that love could exist without the strings of heartache attached. I didn’t have to look any further than my immediate surroundings to see the interconnectedness between love and loss. My little family was crushed beneath the weight of the lost labors of love. Divorce, division, brokenness. The after effects of my parent’s separation can still be traced to this day. Battle lines were drawn, allegiances were formed, possessions were divided and the house was sold. As my parents’ relationship dissolved, I looked on as twenty years of their love’s labors were lost.
And that wasn’t lost on me.
I came to fear that I would lose in that same way. That I would work, invest, plant and labor in my affections for another person, only to end up with a loss. I couldn’t find a way to guarantee against this happening. In fact, it seemed much more likely than not. That terrified me. This predicament is not mine alone: it is universal in it’s scope. It has been a consistent theme throughout the story of mankind since almost the very beginning. So much so that you can feel the weight and devastation of the lost labors of love all throughout the Gospel narrative. Between husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, but much more significantly, between God and man.
Adam and Eve turn from the Lord God their creator at temptation’s first beckoning call, and it seemed as though God’s labors of love were lost.
The Israelites neglect the God who freed them from the bondage of Egyptian slavery, and it seemed as though God’s labors of love were lost.
Judas betrays Jesus into the hands of those who would kill him, and it seemed as though God’s labors of love were lost.
Peter denies all affiliation with Jesus, and it seemed as though God’s labors of love were lost.
Yet despite the consistent turning away of this people from their God, there remains an undercurrent of hope all throughout the gospel story – a promise that one day love will win.
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh… And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20
No matter the betrayal, the passivity, or the idolatry committed against Him, God’s labors of love would not lose. So bent was our God on bringing a hell-bent people home, that he would enter into death to redeem them there. And God’s motivation?
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son… John 3:16
Despite all the times love’s labors were lost on us, God continued on in His pursuit of us. Until finally at the cross, love’s labors won.
So, yeah, love is a costly endeavor. And you and me? We’re never guaranteed a win when we love another person. We’re all flawed and fallen, carrying suitcases of baggage behind us, and sometimes the best we can do is just limp right along. People leave and betray and deny each other and we can all be so fickle in our affections. But there is something about loving another person that teaches us something about His love for us. And His perfect love, which never loses, is able to cast out our fear of love’s labors being lost.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18
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