Last week at CRF, Pastor Wilson emphasized the fact that love is active and selfless; for the average teenagers making out at the movies, "I love you" is a statement on par with that of a three-year-old exclaiming "I love ice cream." Loving someone is not about feeling happy because of them; it's being filled with and acting upon a desire to give yourself up for them.
Now, apply this to your average teenage (or adult) breakup, where one person says to the other: "I just don't feel that way about you anymore." Once upon a time, someone somewhere got the idea that the fact that people and emotions change is a bad thing and a sign from on high that the relationship is worn out and due for replacement. Listen to that statement again. "I don't feel that way about you anymore." In other words, "I've been eating this kind of ice cream for a while now, and I'm tired of it. You aren't making me as happy as I want to be."
When I was 10 or so, I was watching TV with my mom. I forget what the show was. 20-Something Girl confessed her feelings for 20-Something Guy, who responded, "You're my friend. I love you, but I'm not in love with you." My mom snorted, and my romantic sensibilities were outraged. Surely, being in love with someone is something completely different from all other emotions? But hindsight, as usual, is clearer. What 20-Something Guy is saying is, "You make me happy, but not that happy." Even as a friend, love would have a better response than that. All he cares about is finding himself some really good ice cream.
This is why wedding vows are so important. Husband and wife vow to love one another in sickness and health, sorrow and joy, poverty and wealth, for the rest of their lives, not to doodle hearts around each others' names on the nearest piece of paper. Love is hard work. Listen to the conditions it happens in: we are called to love the other when they are sick and needy and smelly; we are called to love them when we are poor and hungry and tired and irritable; we're called to love them in sorrow, when we lose jobs and friends and parents and children and don't know how to go on. How many marriages have you heard of that ended "because of" some tragedy or other? Too many. But these are the times when a husband and wife who genuinely know how to love each other will be the ones most able and most obligated to hold each other up.
So, to return to Pastor Wilson's message, don't say "I love you" lightly. It's a promise about how you intend to spend the rest of your life. People talk about love as if it's something you start out with a lot of and slowly use up over the course of time, but it's the opposite that's true. Love is made out of actions, and as we love someone day in and day out, year after year, that love is going to grow. It's inevitable.
I guess this means I support Valentine's Day. In a sea of romance movies about finding your new favorite ice cream flavor, I think Valentine's Day is one of the last vestiges of genuine love that our culture endorses: to go out of your way to show your love for someone, to write them cards, to give them gifts, to sit down with them for dinner, to give up your time and your money and yourself.