Valentine's Day. The season when all of us think about the love we found...or the love we lost...or the love we're looking for.
And, man, are people looking. There are over 5,000 dating websites! Including match.com, OKCupid and Plenty of Fish. Along with SeniorPeopleMeet and Farmers Only. And DateACowboy.com.
Love is where we place our greatest hopes. Experience our greatest fears and greatest hurts. And make our greatest mistakes. It is a treasure, for sure. But a fragile treasure.
Like a fragile plant, love has to be watered and protected. With some basic love-nurturing steps.
1. Handing out goodies
Emotional goodies, that is. Love thrives on affirmation. Encouragement. Compliments, praise, "atta-boys."
But love is torn down by critical words. Angry words. Sarcastic words. On our lips momentarily, forever in their memory. The Bible so wisely says, "The tongue has the power of life and death" and "reckless words pierce like a sword" (Proverbs 18:21; 12:18).
That's why the Bible's challenge to "encourage one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13) is glue for a love that lasts. Because everybody needs a cheerleader. And all of us need to be one.
2. Unpack your suitcase.
The suitcase where we carry the junk from our past into the present. The abuse. The betrayal. The neglect. The injustice. And the anger and negativity and bitterness that go with it.
Unless we face it, we can't fix it. And if we don't fix it, we'll spread it. The poison will spill into lives that don't even deserve it. And poison love.
That's why God tells us, "See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15). If we harbor resentment and unforgiveness, it will just keep growing into a monster that invades every close relationship.
Unpacking this suitcase we've carried so long has a name. It's called forgiving. Which sometimes seems humanly impossible. But not supernaturally impossible. Because the One who forgave His crucifiers will download His forgiveness into any struggling heart. And pour His healing into every broken heart.
3. Relinquish the wheel.
Because controlling people hardens their heart and pushes them away. Control freaks are fixers - always trying to fix and change what they love. But when you hold onto something too tightly, you crush it. Including love.
I've found a lot of freedom in five words John the Baptist spoke long ago - "I am not the Messiah." When you realize that it's your job to love people and God's job to change them, you can experience the wonderful freedom of releasing what you've been controlling.
4. Anchor your heart.
There's a problem with love. It's "loseable." Betrayal. Divorce. Death. No human love can truly anchor a lonely heart.
So how can that aching hole in our hearts ever be filled? How can we finally know we're safe in a love we cannot lose?
"Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). That's God's ironclad guarantee to every person who belongs to His Son. Who proved His love in blood. Poured out on a cross for the very sins we've done against Him.
This is love that comes looking for us. All the way from heaven to the cross. All the way to wherever someone is reading this right now.