Monday, February 7, 2011

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Goodbye snowmen with scarves and felt and cotton batting. Welcome doilies, ribbon and lace, red and pink candles, XOXOXOs and tiny confetti in the shape of cupids and arrows.

For twenty seven years, I spent Februarys cleaning up paper trimmings as five year olds made home made Valentine hearts for moms, dads, brothers, sisters and classmates. It seemed that once I tacked the familiar red silhouette of cupid onto the bulletin board and introduced the idea that he/she? would be lurking about as Valentine's Day approached, the love bug began to bite. Valentine's Day has always seemed a favorite of small children but it hasn't escaped my attention that it brings mixed emotions as even little ones grapple with their concepts of love.

Last week, as I substituted in a kindergarten class, I heard the familiar "Ewwwws!" and watched as many of the boys and girls clapped their hands across their mouths as if horrified when I suggested we sing one of my all time favorite Valentine diddys. It wasn't long before I saw their faces change as they joined in, making a heart shape with fingers and thumbs and perhaps forgetting their embarassment for a few moments when the subject of "LOVE" entered the room.

For many the subject of love and even the holiday of Valentines Day can bring feelings of ambivalence. There seems to be an unspoken need to keep our feelings about love shrouded in secrecy . Picture a five year old boy as he whispers to his teacher..."Where is ______'s mailbox?" The teacher steps away and watches from the corner of her eye to see him drop 2, 3 or even more Valentine cards into one special mailbox belonging to his favorite friend. I've been wondering lately if we are like this as adults. For some, certainly not all of us, we find ourselves embarassed to admit our need for love and acceptance.

I can still remember my first Valentine's Day sweetheart gift... a comb and brush set given to me by an admirer in elementary school. I remember the ambivalence with which I received this gift. While I was inwardly elated at the revelation that someone of the opposite sex was choosing me as the object of his affection, I also remember vividly the flushed feeling that came to my face upon being presented with a token of his affection.When I learned shortly thereafter another girl had received the same gift from him, my conflicted feelings about love were most likely confirmed. At least the three members of this love triangle have since found humor in the telling of this story. But, what of the conflicted feelings?

Several nights ago as I read from Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus, I came upon these words that capture the conflicted feelings perfectly.

"How is it that the same thing that can make your life a
 rhapsody can also leave you gutted,
like a dead fish wrapped in day-old newspaper?"

After all, the only persons who can hurt you deeply are the ones you allow to get inside your soul. Opening your heart and becoming vulnerable to love someone can be one of the dangerous places on earth. I would like to quote a question McManus uses in the book and invite you to think about it with me as we move towards Valentine's Day.
"If you had the chance to erase all the memories of your greatest love to be free of the pain of losing it, would you?"

I agree with the author that most of us would answer "No" to this question. I also believe that the person who feels they can live without or ignore their need for love is in worse shape than the one who is desperate for it.

Soul Cravings is a thought provoking book. This last quote gives us all food for thought....

"To give up on love is to choose a life that is less than human. To give up on love is to give up on life."

We can look back in horror at the mistakes we've made in the name of love and spew out our "Ewwws..." and clap our hands in horror over our mouths as we try to cover our own need for love. We can laugh in the face of circumstances that seem to make fools of us in the name of love. We will wrestle with our ambivalence and our conflicted feelings but we can't get away from the fact that we had our beginnings in love. We are designed to love and be loved. To love is to be human.

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