There were very few things more important than a Valentine box when I was in the fourth grade. It was an unwritten rule; if it looked good, so did you. I spent hours crunching through my cardboard shoebox with safety scissors creating what looked like a crepe paper and glitter explosion. It was perfect!
However, there was an even more daunting task ahead … making sure the right card was sent to the right person in the classroom. The rest of the school year could end up in ruins if a girl goofed and sent a boy one of the cards that had the LOVE word on it. The thought of Ricky Ashmore or Bobby Webb getting one of the LOVE cards with my signature on it still makes my mouth go dry!
One simple word can alter the landscape on any relationship, especially if you are in the fourth grade. Even for grown ups, the word love can be misunderstood and confusing. What does it really mean to love someone? Does our behavior match our loosely spoken words? Do we say, “I love you” but fail to show respect or keep our promises? Do we get testy and selfish about silly details? Do we explode on someone who innocently says something to kick us up from steaming mad to boiling over?
First Corinthians Chapter 13 doesn’t hem-haw or stutter when it tells us what love is and what love isn’t. But have you ever read past verse seven? Verse 11 says, “When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.” The translation straight from the Greek is, “Get your thumb out of your mouth and grow up.” What is the mile-marker-age we put childish ways behind us? I’m not sure, but clearly we’re old enough to put on our big kid pants, get over ourselves, and move on.
All of us fumble around attempting to do the best we can in our relationships and we still mess up more than we would like to admit. Humbling ourselves, acknowledging when we’re wrong, asking for forgiveness and trying again is how love works. By the way, if we’re honestly putting childish ways behind us, the pouting and grudge holding aren’t a part of the equation.
Love is so much more than a fabulous Valentine box or a “I love my Doberman” bumper sticker or a I heart … fill-in-the-blank tee shirt. It’s complicated, mysterious, and like anything, the learning curve can be exhausting. But it’s worth it. The one thing I do know is this: the farther behind us we put the childish things, the easier it gets.
Happy Valentine’s Day!