2018-02_LT-LoveValentines

Holidays/My Culture

Searching for Real Love on Valentine’s Day

Halfway through my middle school career, I remember hearing an alternate name for the holiday we celebrate on February 14th. Some of my friends were in relationships, and they had no problem calling each other “my Valentine.” But some of my other friends were not in relationships and, for them, Valentine’s Day served as an uncomfortable and obnoxious reminder that they had no apparent significant others. While the popular couples at my Catholic middle school flirted with each other and maybe went so far as to buy each other gifts or even to hold hands (leaving room for the Holy Spirit), my single friends watched in horror as the realization seemed to hit them for the first time that they weren’t dating other people.

The halls were heavy on Valentine’s day with the smell of chocolate, roses, #drama, and an extra amount of that horrible Axe cologne that twelve-year-old boys wear when they’re trying to impress someone. Thus, through the fire and flames of going through puberty and Valentine’s day simultaneously came the name “Singles Awareness Day.” My friends thought they were pretty clever with this new title, but I wasn’t impressed. I figured that, if nothing else, it gave them a better reason to buy themselves flowers and chocolate.

Moveover, looking back on this situation, I worry that it could be problematic. On a holiday highlighting romance and relationship, when the affection couples share makes single people feel like they’re missing out on something that they need, I worry that we may have forgotten the highest expression of love we’ve been offered on the cross.

The Cross Shows Us Real Love

Now, of course, the image of the crucified Christ is probably not something you’d want to include in a cute love letter to your middle school crush; nonetheless, this powerful and intimate scene reveals to us the truth about unconditional love. This love is greater than anything we could ever hope for, and, while romantic relationships are an important part of loving others and being loves ourselves, we ought to pursue these relationships while keeping in mind the truth that Christ loves us the most.

Not even the most perfect romance could compare to the infinite love Jesus has for each of us. In His Passion, Christ shows His infinite love for each of us, not with gifts or sweet words, but through His own death. Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself so that we might gain eternal salvation, a gift we could never deserve. That sacrifice ought to teach us something about our own worth and about Jesus’ love.

Christ loves us so much that He holds nothing back. As He hung on the cross, His arms were stretched wide and His body was laid bare for all to see. The cross is Christ’s bold proclamation of “Here I am!” and His assurance that we are valuable enough to spend eternity in love with Him. No amount of pain, torture, or humiliation could keep Him from loving us.

Christ died for all of us as the people of God, but He also died for each of us as an individual persons. On the cross, when Jesus was feeling weak, He very well might have drawn strength by closing His eyes and whispering your name, a reminder for whom He was making His ultimate sacrifice. Through the cross, Christ pours out onto us more love than we could ever hope to receive from anyone else, and only in this self-giving and sacrificial love are we made complete.

Christ’s Love is Enough

God gave us an inherent desire to love Him so that our hearts might lead us back to the greatest love of all. The Lord has carved into each of our hearts a space that only He can fill, and how great that is! Without the prompting of our deepest desires to find the eternal and unfailing love of God, we might spend our entire lives grasping for the inadequate love of the world. And this scrambling for love is precisely what happens when we forget that our deepest need is for intimacy with the Jesus.

In a misguided attempt to fill our souls with earthly things, we might chase after relationships or romance, desperately seeking from other people the love that only God can give. However, no amount of finite, human love can ever satisfy our longing for Christ’s infinite love. Only in recognizing the love of God as the object of our deepest desires can we begin to move towards fulfillment. And only in diving deep into that infinite and intimate love can we be made whole.

Each time we gaze at Christ on the cross, how often do we not believe Him when He proclaims that His love is enough? In my own life I so often find myself seeking consolation and validation through achievements, status, and relationships, grappling for worthiness in an effort to be my own savior and to make myself lovable. But that’s not what the cross is about.

Jesus didn’t suffer and die with the intention that I should have to earn His love for myself. Rather, when He cries out, “it is finished,” He declares that our frantic search to fill the void in our hearts in finally over. We can be finished striving to earn love because, on the cross, Jesus gives Himself and His love freely and totally.

Single or not…

Christ has declared loud and clear that He loves us more than we could ever comprehend, more than we could ever hope to reciprocate, and more than we could earn or deserve. So, on Valentine’s day, where the focus is love, we would do well to remember Who it us that loves us most. Not even the cutest, most popular, most Axe cologne ridden, most Instagram-perfect couple in school can compare to our True Love. A True Love whose death validates His infinite and unfailing love and reminds us that we have been freely gifted a love we could never earn. A True Love who suffered and died for us, and who would do it all again just to hear us say that we love Him.

Christ’s cross gives couples a model to follow and singles a reason to rejoice, for it means that each of us is loved beyond understanding. On the cross, Christ pours out His infinite love to us and invites us not to earn but to accept that love. So, before we strive to hit relationship #goals on Valentine’s day or to plan a nice movie night with our single selves, let us first look to the cross and see Jesus pouring out His love to us. For only in this love will we be satisfied, and only in this love will we come to know the Truest Love, a Love that died so that we might live.

About the Author

Nick Bernard

I once played a character named "Jim" on an ad for my city's local Catholic radio station, and my friend Kelly played "Kathy." Unfortunately, my career in radio was pretty short lived (maybe twenty minutes total?). My relationship with Jesus is simultaneously beautiful, raw, intimate, and wild, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The Lord continues to invite me deeper into His love, and I can't wait to see where He'll take me next. If you'd like to follow along with me in my journey with Christ, you can find me on Instagram @n1ckb3rnard.