As Valentine’s Day approaches, it seems normal to think of love, perhaps with cynicism or hope or a mix of conflicted emotions. Last year, I wrote a post on this site about Valentine’s Day, and I’m happy to contribute this year around the same time. But this year I’ve been doing a different kind of reflection. Maybe it’s because I just took my artificial Christmas tree down this past weekend, but I’ve been a little slow to get in the Valentine’s spirit, more specifically to reflect on the idea of a holiday dedicated to love.
It’s not that I haven’t been talking about love and relationships—I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. I’m teaching a class that is currently in the middle of a unit on Christian sexual ethics, I’ve been conversing with friends about their upcoming weddings and future plans, and I have spent a lot of time on the phone navigating the terrain of a long-distance relationship. But all this talk hasn’t left me too much time to reflect. It wasn’t until last night, as the church choir rehearsal I was attending was ending, that my thoughts of devouring chocolate hearts were interrupted by a litany prepared by two choir members in honor of Valentine’s Day.
It might not be surprising that the readers spoke of God’s love for us, and our love of God. I was surprised, however, at the immediacy of my response. Their litany opened a place in my heart, my mind, and my soul to reflect on love and its depths. I remembered that at the heart of the Christian message is a narrative about God’s grace, about God’s gift of love, of God wanting humanity. When the two women finished reading, the choir closed our rehearsal by singing to one another as we typically do, “May the grace of Christ, our Savior, and the love of God, our Father, and the fellowship of the Spirit be with us forever.” I left (grabbing a few of those candy hearts I’d been pondering earlier), hopped in my car and played a Stevie Wonder tune about love on my way home where I then entered my house delighted about the love that surrounds me.
Love isn’t always associated with delight. Love is expressed in grief, in loneliness that accompanies missing someone, in anger at being betrayed, in sorrow at being abandoned, in fear for the ones we care about. Yet despite recent encounters with friends and family in the tragedies of love, as I write, I’m filled with love’s joy. I thank God that I am a witness to love that is expressed in:
- The divine, the sacred, the mystical, the immanent, and the transcendent.
- Partnerships and marriages built on mutual respect, fidelity, and unitive bonds. Thank you, my sister, my parents, and my friends for modeling this.
- Families who show up during times of crisis or call out of the blue to say hi. Thank you, my cousins, my aunts, and my elders for being there for each other and for me even when I’m far away.
- Friendships and intimate relationships that reveal the potential for human connection. Thank you confidants, buddies, sweethearts, exes, and loves for your presence.
- Communities of women who share their lives together, laughing, praying, comforting, advising, and entertaining when necessary. Thank you, church groups, sister-girls from classes and activities and chance meetings for being open to love and life.
- Communities of feminists who seek to affirm each other, challenge each other, and grow together as we explore the meaning of religion and heal from the wounds of patriarchal religion. Thank you, bloggers and readers for your insights.
Gratitude seems an appropriate response for love that is a gift.
Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.