Valentine’s Day is nice, but don’t take it at face value

By Father Adam Grelinger, Guest Writer

Oddly enough, Valentine’s Day had to fight for its place this year, with Feb. 14 also being Ash Wednesday (importantly reminding us we shall return to dust) and the Chief’s championship parade (definitively an earthly kingdom now). 

As much as I love the other two, it is good to have a day to celebrate our loved ones and to reflect on the gift of love in our lives.

I would like to offer a short reflection on what I see as a key element for strong, enduring love. Who is a 30-year old, unmarried guy to offer such advice? Well, judge the message, not the messenger, for yourself.

There are many examples of love we take in from the culture, from rom-coms to celebrity couples. Often such examples are of beautiful people in practically unrealistic situations designed for emotional highs.

Yet we will experience love in the ebb and flow of a relatively normal life. Some days are beautiful. Some days are not. Some days are adventurous and exhilarating. Some are simple and mundane. Some days, our hearts can hardly contain the joy of love. Some weeks, we struggle to find a spark.

But true love – not new puppy-love, but a mature love – will be found in each of those days, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In fact, the strength of our love is most visible when our beloved has a bad day. Certainly when they are sick, we want to be there for them. But what about the times when our beloved struggles, makes a big mistake, is rude, shows cowardice, or fails us?

At such times, we may feel the temptation to withdraw from them or to withdraw our love. We may think something like, “You do not deserve my love now.”

I think such moments are a true test for our love. Do we draw back, or do we flee when our beloved disappoints us? We may sense an assumed contract along the lines of, “I will love you until you mess up.” Is our love conditional on them not messing up?

This is not to say love should approve of bad behavior. Not at all. Nor should it ignore it. I mean to say true love adheres to the value of the beloved person regardless of their shortcomings. Having come to a deep appreciation for the value of this person, I can stand with them in this difficult situation, forgive, and allow for reconciliation. This is a necessary element for love to be unconditional.

Is this not true of God’s love for us? How patient He is with us. How unflinching when we fail. How quick to forgive and illuminate the path of reconciliation. He is the greatest model of unconditional love. I believe we can and ought to learn it from Him and imitate it in our own loves.

The idyllic Valentine love of pink hearts and heartwarming messages is wonderful. But it may also be shallow. A deep, abiding love will rejoice on the Valentine Days and be willing to take the Lenten road. We deserve such love ourselves, and I believe we have been made capable of living it.

PHOTO: Courtesy photo, Unsplash