The Art of Love
Love is a many-faceted word in English. One can love his dog, love his car, love football, love nachos, and love his wife and say so using the same word and perhaps without changing emphasis or inflection. To someone new to the language, it could be a bit confusing.
But most of us recognize the difference between loving one’s spouse and the love one has for a favorite food. The context usually nails it for us. While the word is interchangeable, the sentiment is not. We love different things with varying passions, depending on the measure of their importance. A puppy may be cuddly and even lovable but not nearly as precious, I trust, as one’s sweetheart.
As Valentine Day approaches, it might benefit us to give serious thought to the art of love. Such a phrase may conjure up for some television shows about bachelors and bachelorettes where men and women with perfect bodies and perfect faces find perfect relationships that result in perfect pleasures. After all, isn’t the art of love about finding perfect pleasure? If we play our cards right, make the right moves, and employ the perfect word or phrase, we will make our catch. That is the way the game is played. This is the love that “makes the world go round.”
Before you decide that I am a love-starved Stoic, let me clarify myself. I am a fan of romance. There is nothing quite like the chemistry between a man and woman. What would life be without the God-given gift of romance? I still have fond and vivid memories of the spark that gradually but perceptibly grew into a flame thirty-six years ago: my only real love, as she still is. I am, I think, an unashamed romantic. I hope I remain so. I do not see Valentine Day as a waste of time nor an impossible imposition. Rather, I see it as a challenge, an opportunity to make every attempt to do justice to a day set aside solely for remembering and expressing love.
But neither am I so naive as to think that I have mastered the art of love because I have learned to remember special days. Gifts and romantic words are but hollow tokens if they are not the fruit of genuine selfless love. While none of us will achieve perfectly selfless love in this life, it is the pursuit of such love that is at the heart of the art of love. True love demands that we embrace our Lord’s exhortation to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. True love requires commitment that transcends circumstances and feelings. True love reminds us of our utter frailty and inability to love as we ought apart from God’s grace in Christ. True love calls us to reject the temptation to be satisfied with where and what we are and to keep growing.
I challenge you to give the best Valentine gift you can. When you do, resolve that it will not be a mere trinket that leads you to wipe your brow in relief that you didn’t blow it this year. Let it be for you a resolve to make the art of love a life-long pursuit of Christlike charity that causes its object see the reality of Christ and to grow in love for Him.
In the love of Christ,