Be my valentinePublished 8:45am Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Among the unique, maybe even babbling statements in the Bible is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Written in the New Testament collection, Matthew 22:39, it is attributed to Jesus.
Your invitation is to think with me and ask, “How can we wrap our understanding around this pungent urging?” Pushing your reflection, you may find it odd or meant for another era, another group. But for reflection, let us imagine it’s meant for us.
Is there discomfort? And why? I hear you saying: “If you only knew my neighbor,” or, “For today, that love business just seems to work.” I sense someone being very honest. “If you expect me to love a neighbor as myself, you would be disappointed. When I can even start loving myself, then I may plug into that exhortation.”
Yes, the sentence from Jesus is odd. The people of our coming and going, to tell the truth, are just getting off first base on this matter of appropriate personal pride. Working on a sense of self-worth is life-long. Our goal may be to really love who we are about, but most of us fall more than a bit short. When an adequate feeling of that beautiful disposition of love is part of one’s life, a standard will emerge. We can then embrace an appreciation (love) of ourselves and apply that affection as a measure of loving others.
When a goal is moving and magnificent
The statement of Jesus — to love others as we love ourselves, is a magnificent and baffling reality.
The love business is certainly a proper subject for the present season! In our society, this is a time when genuine love moves beyond sentimentality, misidentification, or actions that suggest we are immune to that kind of orientation.
Did we hear someone say, “I tried that and where did it get me?” Or, we recall when a brother, in a grim mood, spoke his true feelings. We still hear the words and with the hurt edge: “Toughen up; it’s a rough world out there.” Pause. A special day is sliding our way. Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day.
Is it possible to look at this day, feel it in our bones, visualize some dream-like form, without getting caught up in the propaganda? In my work in church, college, and community, I have used as a guide: “Tell it straight.” There are enough world views, church views, theories, master plans, and attempts to correct you. There are enough opinions and pay-offs around to choke a horse. Yet I believe there are some deep, sound realities that do dance around the carousel of love.
You don’t have to say, “My way or the highway.” Cynicism, blaming, or dropping out leads you know where. Tears? An affirmation of many parts of this world may indeed be the occasion for mature, soft, stable love. That it takes work to sustain it, goes without saying.
Love: The way through the wilderness
A line that recently appeared in a handout in the service of an Austin church, stated a truth. But I believe as clear-eyed as it was (depending on where you are looking), wasn’t the only scenery. Thankfully. “…Traveling through this wilderness.”
Given the unpredictable weather of these weeks, we may be party to a flood or freeze-out. But let us believe that the week of Valentine’s Day will find us with open hand. We will be found with warm hearts.
In past years I taught classes at the Riverland Community College. Especially in the study of the Humanities and great literature, I am drawn to dimensions beyond parking lots, freeways, and bank accounts. You name it. I shall not leave love out of history. Part of it may even be HIS story. Reading the history of English literature creates a warming over and over. We cannot read some of our past without a Boswell, a Shakespeare, a King James Version of the Bible, a Keats, a Byron, a Shelley, or a Milton without being party to a mystery, a tug, an interior rolling. There are names and reflections we experience as the heavy lifters in English literary tradition. These invite a growth of our affections.
We move on as if to ride a piercing dye as the aesthetic stream winds its way through the strength and beauty of authors like Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Sylvia Plath, and Lewis Carroll. They place our hearts possibly near a special person.
It may be that a quickening of soul does occur in a rebirth of love within the cradle of a very rare, all is well, day. A choir sings, “Heart of my heart…”
When love is in the air, it even emanates from nature; an orchard speaks to us. In the body of A.C. Swinburne’s poem “August,” the tantalizing lines spring forth:
The leaves caught gold across the sun,
And where the bluest air begun
Thirsted for song to help the heat;
As I to feel my lady’s feet
Draw close before the day were done
Both lips grew with dreams of it.
Marvin Repinski is a retired United Methodist Pastor.