If we pay close attention to cultural cues, the way to express our love is to buy candy by the box, roses by the dozen, or jewelry in containers of every size imaginable. It’s such a crock, beloved. Real Love doesn’t demand pajamas in a bag. Real Love doesn’t demand anything except to be allowed to adore the object of its fascination. While the patriot in me applauds any effort to improve the nation’s economy by buying tokens of affection, the priest in me is saddened when Love is reduced to a business transaction.
When we are children, we tend to equate getting things from people with love. A mother’s day card from one of my sons many years ago said just that: “I love my Mom because she buys me toys.” But a few years later, in another card, he said he loved his Mom “because she takes care of me and I take care of her.” He had moved from interpreting love as receiving fun things to looking out for the well-being of another.
If you want to know if you are loved, don’t pay attention to the gifts you may or may not receive today. Pay attention to yesterday, last month…any ordinary day. Did anyone you don’t know smile at you, or hold the elevator door for you, or let you slip ahead of them in line? Did you find yourself in exactly the right place at the right time, and wonder how that happened? Did you find something you had lost a while back and couldn’t locate for the life of you? Did a problem that seemed unsolvable suddenly seem to have a clear solution? These aren’t dramatic or even romantic occurrences, but they are expressions of Love – a love big enough to put the universe in motion, and hold you in the palm of its hand. Real love does not express itself in the mere giving of gifts. Real love makes our lives worth living. It fills us with a sense of our own value and purpose; it gives us hope. It is not dependent upon the giving of material gifts, but upon the sharing of our selves. Real love is demonstrated by our willingness to care for another human being; even if we don’t particularly like a person , we still can be loving. We can wish him or her well, do what we can to ease his or her pain.
And the best part is this: real love isn’t specific to couples. It offers itself to everyone – married, single, adult, child – everyone is eligible to receive real love.
A nearby church – Elevation Church – is having a Love Week. Among the scheduled activities for Love Week is helping the church I serve -- Christ the King -- get its community garden started. The garden is to include vegetables for meals for shut-ins as well as for the community at large, plus flowers and a meditation garden where neighbors can come and get some peace. We don’t know the good people of Elevation yet, and they don’t know us, but they’re coming to help this Saturday. Now that’s real Love.