The Truest Love

Love songs are dominating the radio air waves this week as the world prepares to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I suppose we can never get enough of the silky voices of people like John Legend singing hits like “All of Me” or Bette Midler singing “The Rose.”  Even the happily unpartnered respond to the sound of love songs as they too raise the volume a little when their favorite song plays. Apparently, God made us this way.  We’re made for love.

Yet, despite all the hoopla around romance this week, what passes for love on a day like Valentine’s Day is often only a shadow of the truest thing, if we’re speaking honestly here. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship for more than five minutes knows that love is more than chocolates, roses and a good love song. The truest love is more than that. Much more.

There is a love that goes deeper than the best frilly Valentine’s Day card. It shows itself in quiet ways, often unannounced but supremely felt. Anyone who has ever experienced it can speak to its power. It cannot be manufactured, forced or even wished for, because it is purely a gift.  All other vestiges of love pale in comparison to it.

The love of which I speak is available to everyone no matter their marital status. And yet, it forms the foundation of marital love. I’m speaking of the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is the love that grounds all others in the blessedness of grace.

This love is capable of surviving all circumstances, from the greatest triumphs to the most horrendous lows.  It is the love that girds the married for better or for worse. It is the love that affirms the unpartnered in the sanctity of solitude.

Several years ago, when I served as Visitation Pastor at St. Mark’s in Claremont, I was afforded the privilege to visit on a regular basis a resident of Trinity Village in Hickory. The resident was a woman in her late eighties who was experiencing the late stages of Alzheimer’s to the point that she had lost the ability to speak or identify those who visited her. Most of the time, she silent and motionless, even when nurses came to care for her. However, when her husband of 50 years arrived and he placed his hand in her hand, her eyes would widen and she would look up, experiencing a presence that touched something deep within her. It was as though she suddenly sprang alive by the presence of love.

The only other time I saw her react this way was when I offered her Holy Communion. The first time I offered the sacrament to her in the absence of her husband, I expected her usual silent and motionless response. So, I was surprised when her eyes widened, and she mumbled a response to my inquiry. When we finished the Eucharist, I knew something had happened.  In that moment, I knew that the love that had touched her through her husband’s hand was the same love that touched her in the means of grace, the Eucharist. It was the truest love of all.

Pastor Frank Waugh