Love and Happiness by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsAs 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

Categories: Christianity, Ethics, Family, Feminism, General, God, Love, Relationships, Women and Community

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10 replies

  1. Thanks for a love-ly reflection on the power of love. I am guessing that it makes you happy to think of God and Christ as male figures. Would that be a correct reading? Do you think concern about the gender of God and the Savior are misplaced? (PS This is not a hostile comment, I would “love” to gain more insight on your point of view.)


    • Hello Carol! I don’t feel any hostility in your comment. I thank you for asking. Actually, it doesn’t make me happy to think of God and Christ as male figures. It doesn’t exactly make me UNhappy, but it does give me some discomfort. I have been doing a lot of thinking about gendered imagery and language for God over the past few months. Honestly, a lot of it was provoked by hostile comments I got from students at the end of my fall semester because I require gender-neutral language for God and gender-inclusive language when referring to people. (It honestly still shocks my system when I hear people refer to “man” for all people; I first became aware of the issue when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and the Girl Scouts changed their pledge because it referred to “mankind.” That was over 30 years ago and students act like I’m completely radical! I know it’s new to them, but still!) Anyway, I digress.

      I think LACK of concern about the gender of God and Savior are misplaced. While I acknowledge that there is a danger of simply projecting an image of myself as a deity that i worship, I also think there is great harm in loving and worshiping the divine imaged as those who are at times hostile to me, and historically have been so to my ancestors and kin. So although I know and have good relationships with older, white males, I see no reason why I should image and worship God “the Father” who looks like an old white man. How would that benefit my spiritual practice? Carol, when I read your work years ago, I was convinced about the validity and rightness of affirming feminine forms of divinity. Although the Christian (patriarchal) tradition does not have much room for Goddess language, I am comfortable with it, at least for the first and third persons of the Trinity. “God” after all, is beyond gender.

      It’s only recently, after reading Melinda Bielas’ post (, that I began to question male language for the Christ. I got into an interesting conversation with Grace Kao ( in January that will show up in a post soon. But I’m still thinking through it.


      • Thanks for this reply to Carol and I look forward to future posts on male language and Christ. It’s something I’m really struggling with.


      • thanks for such a thoughtful response. looking forward to more… And to refer back to Angela’s post on Anna Julia
        Cooper, it was likely “the singing something” not the words that moved you with you friends as you finished choir practice.


  2. Just lovely. The best valentine ever.


  3. Oh, I love this, Elise!


  4. Today has been one in a series of very difficult days. Thank you for writing about love, and the love of all in our lives, including God. I needed this.



  1. Gendered Imagery of God (Part 1) by Elise M. Edwards «

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