Tuesday, February 14, 2017

All You Need Is Love?

It's Valentine's Day.

And just like last year and the year before and well, pretty much every year that I can remember, I couldn't actually care less. That's not because I don't have an amazing husband and a lot of love in my life. It's just because I've come to believe that a lot of little, wonderful moments of doing life together goes a lot further for me than a fancy dinner and chocolates. Not that a fancy dinner and chocolates aren't welcome - but at this stage of life, we take dates when we can get them. And we've already got a fun one planned for Friday that has nothing to do with the holiday.

Valentine's Day is a day when we are meant to celebrate love by buying little trinkets and spiderman valentines and saying "I love you." (Which means that I, as a parent, spend time buying, filling out and making sure said little gifts get sent to the right places so my children can still participate in a holiday I don't care a whit about. I'm not yet so cruel as to force on them my own level of grumpiness about it.)

Like Christmas and Easter, we have learned to express love through gift-giving in our culture. And like with those holidays, sometimes the gifts are meaningful and other times they are just "stuff." Some people love the holiday and the exchanges and others would gladly skip it since it leaves them feeling empty or disappointed.

Some, like me, just don't care.

People like to toss around the phrase "all you need is love." I don't know if the phrase predates the famous song or if the song introduced the now-famous phrase. But I read it and hear it all the time.

It never sits well.

I've had a lot of love in my life. I grew up in a stable family. I married into a family that has made it clear they love me. I got married almost 14 years ago and love my husband more today than on the day we said "I do." I have three boys who express their love for me in countless ways. I have friends who speak truth and make me laugh.

Love is beautiful.

But, at least in earthly form, it's not everything.

In adoption circles, you hear about it a lot. "Those kids just need love and once they are in a "stable" family, they will be fine." Yes, they obviously need love just like every kid out there needs love. They are human. But they need a lot more. For my kids, they need me to be the kind of person who recognizes the importance of their culture, the reality of racism and the challenges of a multiracial family. Who takes research and listening and humility seriously and is willing to risk failure. They need me to care about their hair and learn how to do it correctly. They need me to speak well and often of their birthparents so that they feel the freedom to explore their own history when they are older. They need to be able to tell me they love their skin color and ask why mine is different without me panicking and shutting down the conversation. They need us to make choices so that they are in schools and churches and neighborhoods where they are not the only black children and so that there are authorities in their lives who look like them. They need us to recognize there is trauma in adoption - that even though we brought them home as infants, there is loss in their life, loss that love can seep into but not obliterate. That the identity questions with which they will struggle as black adopted children with white parents are no small thing.

I truly wish all we needed was "love". That I could fill up my heart with all the feelings and emotions and joys that are associated with it and be whole. But the way love is sold to us is so often lacking. It is shallow. It is impatient. It is all about what we get out of it and rarely about what we are meant to give in its name. God's love is the opposite. It is bigger and stronger and more sacrificial than anything we've ever seen. And it calls us to love in response. Not in small and frivolous ways, not just in words, but in action, in hope, in sacrifice.

So, yes, today my husband might come home with flowers because it is Valentine's Day. He will give me a kiss and ask how the day was and my little ones will giggle. He'll scoop them up and hold them close and kiss their curls and hug my oldest. He loves them and those actions are still powerful and good.

But I'm grateful that love is so much more than what we settle for so much of the time. That it is, in the immortal words of the old school DC Talk song, "a verb." It's action and sacrifice and challenge and choices, its sometimes choosing someone else's good over our own, all rolled into relationship and held together by God.

Let's celebrate that today. And tomorrow. And every day that we are fortunate enough to have people are in our lives. Let's do it in real and honest and challenging and beautiful ways.

Because if we could really see and live love in all its depth, poured out in service to those around us, the way it was taught to us by a sacrificial God who loves us more than we could ever ask or imagine, maybe the world really would be a better place.

Maybe that kind of love really would be all we need.

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