Valentine's Day has been dubbed the day of Love. But perhaps more accurately, it is a day of longing -- longing for ideal love and perfect romance. Unfortunately, few recognize perfect love even when it lingers fully within reach.
Last week, at a conference for teen girls here in Hungary, several twenty-somethings attended. They had grown up in the orphanage since age three -- in world with little moral compass, and much more passion than compassion.
"Marry your best friend?" Mari*, one such girl, questioned the wisdom being shared in a small group. "Never! What kind marriage would that be? There would be no real love or passion!"
In her world, love is all about wild rushes of emotion and sensual nights of passion. And so she searches for a sexual passion that will endure forever, an emotional high that never grows dull. And she cannot understand why it continues to evade her.
Clearly she does not understand love.
When I was growing up, I recall endless discussions on the topic of "finding Mr. Right." In Christian circles, we phrased it, "waiting for God's best," but in the end it all amounted to a notion that there was someone out there crafted just for me -- my ideal life partner.
True love meant a perfect fit and certainly happily ever after.
But what happens after all the rice is thrown and the new couple settles in the utter imperfections of day to day life only to learn each is now eternally linked to a fellow creature as sinful as himself? It is disillusioning. And some have been wont to conclude they must have missed God's best in the pursuit of a mate, because the life in which they find themselves is certainly not happily ever after.
Again, I would argue, this person does not understand love.
So what is love?
Love is not sappy sentimentality or fluttery feelings around the heart. It is not rooted passion and sensuality, but rather in sacrifice and long suffering. We will not discover it by "finding the perfect mate," but rather by allowing ourselves to be perfected by Him who loves best of all.
Valentines Day each year underscores our very natural longing for love. But that longing is not satisfied in idolized images of a perfect man or a perfect mate -- because people are not perfect and therefore inevitably fail to emulate perfect love.
Still, deep inside us, we want to make mere human love our idol and believe if we can only attain it, all will be well. Our lives will become happily ever after. And like Mari, who grew up in a Hungarian orphanage, we cannot understand why it continues to evade us.
Real love is out there. It has lingered within our reach all the time. It longs to teach us what it is all about, but we shun it again and again. We eschew its complete sacrifice. And dismiss it casually only to again pursue an idol of imperfect love.
True love is not of this world. And we will not understand it until we begin to value it above our own selfish ideals and idols of fleshly love.
Are you longing for love on this Valentine's Day? Then take a fresh look at the Author of Love and discover that a divine romance awaits you -- one so mystical and magical than it could only be designed by the Lover of your Soul.
*not her real name