Come February, I always find myself thinking about love.
I punch paper hearts and string them around. I keep tabs on recipes involving cocoa and heavy cream. I wonder hard about what love looks like to my nine year old, or my twenty-one year old. Or my husband.
I buy paper plates festooned with hearts and set aside twenty bucks for surprises. Because I love them.
Go ahead, call me a sap. Say I'm Hallmark's biggest fool.
It's at least half true.
The problem is, I'm most comfortable with the Valentine's kind of love, the one that rolls into town now and then with its grand proclamations or a handful of chalky candy hearts.
The love I like best is all glitter and no glue.
It's the easy, take me out to dinner, baby, kind of love. It's fun and endearing.
As its biggest advocate, I don't feel out of line saying it's even important.
But what about February fifteenth? What about April twentieth, or late July? How on earth do we really love?
I'm not so hot at the real kind of love.
I default to a steady selfishness, that quiet, orange-hot simmer way down deep that says I've done enough, I've done it all, and what has anyone done for me lately, anyway?
I send the obviously-needy child to his room because I don't want to deal with the particular way he oozes pain. I shut down after dark, when my husband or my oldest son wants to talk. I snap when my daughter interrupts me three times in a row. I hide my favorite box of cereal. I sigh when the doorbell rings.
We know what love is and who invented it. Jesus put it on and wore it around in broad daylight so we could sit today with our cups of coffee and our tired eyes and know for sure that it's real. It's possible to love by laying ourselves down, but we sure can't do it on our own.
I want to love greatly, everyday, but sometimes I need a place to re-start. And Valentine's Day fits the shoe. I guess that's why I let myself get tangled up in garlands.
To me, the silly, swoony love is a small reflection of the real kind of love that requires less sugar and more guts.
I want to hold fast to the truth, that everyone deserves a second chance, and a fortieth. That's how Jesus loves, and if He's really walking around in my tired bones, if He's breathing and serving and yucking it up with the neighbors through wonky ol' me, then surely I've got all I need to love in His wild, disarming ways.
Laugh if you must. Tell me again this holiday is an overplayed conspiracy.
I'm not buying your candy, pal.
I'll go down swinging.
I'll go down with bittersweet chocolate under my nails and yarn in my hair.
I believe you can love well, and more shockingly, I believe I can, too.
Might as well practice up.