Where Faith Meets Reality

Love Is In The Air

One of the seminal movies for baby-boomers was a sentimental tear-jerker called Love Story. It remains the quintessential chick-flick, and came to mind while seeing one too many commercials for Valentine’s Day.

The jewelry outlets and florists are geared up for the big day. Hallmark banks on the tugging of heartstrings. Every marketer imaginable gets in on the act.

Each sixty second blurb presents a love story filled with hopes and dreams. The sparkling eyes and bright smiles of the actors give the impression that love will conquer all, which can inspire optimism, even among world-weary cynics.

Love is in the air. However, love is many things to many different people. It can create a mixed up confusion trying to explain or define it. Love may be the most misunderstood and misused word in the English language.

As characterized by our culture, love is about feelings, and like it or not, feelings have all the consistency of melting Jell-O. It is jiggly and wiggly and lots of fun, but when the thermometer of life spikes, feelings are apt to fluctuate or even evaporate.

When that happens, according to statistics, fifty percent of couples get divorced, moving on to the next warm and fuzzy relationship. If a relationship is anchored on feelings-based love, then when troubles come as troubles do, people split faster than one can recite the marriage vows.

Don’t misunderstand me. Love always engages the emotions, but if that is all it does, then when surprises or adjustments develop, feelings quickly shift with changing circumstances, which sends hearts wandering in search of that nice cuddly sensation.

All of which brings me back to Love Story. Rich boy Oliver meets working class girl Jennifer. There is the standard personality and family tension as they fall in love and marry. Oliver’s father disowns him which results in financial struggles for the newlyweds, but they persevere.

Jennifer gets a teaching job and works to pay Oliver’s tab at Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, Oliver accepts a position at a prestigious New York law firm. Things are looking good, but then Jennifer gets sick and dies.

The storyline was contrived, and walking away from the theater was the first time I thought about the ability of movie makers to manipulate emotions. I felt cheated.

Even so, its syrupy hook-line got stuck inside my head: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” It did not ring true to me way back then, and forty years later, it still sounds meaningless. Sweet and succinct, its premise is extremely deceptive.

I wonder how many of my generation swallowed the vast extent of that lie; how many marriages were shipwrecked simply because an apology was never offered?

Truth is love is a verb, an action word. Genuine love lives in constant pursuit of the happiness and fulfillment of the person loved; real love is tempered by adversity and instead of dissolving when life turns up the heat, it is made stronger.

Weddings are wonderful celebrations, but nothing is easier than saying words and nothing more difficult than living them day after day. The promises made before family and friends on that special day must be renewed each and every tomorrow.

While recently reading a passage Paul of Tarsus wrote, some words captured my imagination and really got me thinking about love.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge . . .”

The phrase in question? “…to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Isn’t that just like God? We are to be “rooted and established in love”; we are to probe its width, length, height and depth; we are to know this love, but we are directly told that it surpasses knowledge, that in fact, it cannot be fully known.

Whatever else we perceive love to be, it is a complex mystery for us to explore. Love is a neverending story requiring continual grace and grit. When love is truly in the air, it means being overly generous with those two simple words: I’m sorry.

If you have offended or wronged a loved one, tell them you are sorry. For when we implement love, it has powerful healing elements that can mend the wounds we inflict on each other.

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