February 8, 2008

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

It turns out that love is a many-splendored thing

Cynthia DewesThis is a week devoted to love in its many forms.

Not only is Valentine’s Day coming up, but also the birthday of my boyfriend.

Actually, he’s my husband, but nowadays everybody lives with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and I don’t want to be old-fashioned. Don’t worry, that’s a joke.

We’ve been married long enough to know the many stages of romantic love, and we’ve also lived long enough to know the many other kinds of love as well. Love is a lifelong pursuit, full of surprises, pleasures and sometimes even pain.

God is Love, and sometimes it takes us a long time to learn that because we are made in God’s image we are required to “be” love as well.

That’s why the promiscuous sex and uncommitted living together that prevail in our culture today are no laughing matter. They do not express love, but only mutual use arrangements.

Now, God has provided us with the tools to love and be loved. As tiny babies, we instinctively look to our mothers, and later our dads too, for comfort and approval. And parents instinctively feel compelled to care for, be interested in and feel affection for their kids.

When we first had children, my husband and I were surprised by how life slowed down to meet each new baby’s pace.

Somehow, we felt no need to be rushing around in the world, worrying about jobs or roof leaks or anything else. Sitting quietly feeding or just admiring Baby was enough. That changed after a while, of course, but the impulse to be attentive remained. And remained.

To this day, when someone calls out “Mom!” in the grocery store, I turn around. I’m instantly ready to help, serve, protect. That’s the maternal instinct at work. And if we ever thought that once the kids were grown our job was done, think again. That instinct extends to continuing generations.

We also love our sisters and brothers despite little rivalries if Mom and Dad show us that there is plenty of love to go around in a family. “Only” children have that opportunity, too, if they have cousins near at hand.

The love of friends is certainly another one of the greatest loves we can experience. As I’ve written before, friends are uniquely important in our lives. They allow us to be who we really are, as we allow them to be who they are. We admire their virtues and talents, and rationalize their faults. We enable each other, as we do in any loving relationship.

Romantic love is a gift some of us long for, thanks to movies and television. Certainly, my idea of romantic love was formed by movies of the ’40s and ’50s, things like Now, Voyager or Gone with the Wind. Passion and excitement seemed to be the criteria for true love. Now that I’m older and wiser, I’m not sure those things are necessary every second of every day, but they’re still wonderful while they are in operation.

Like every other kind of love, love of God is based on faith. We love God because we believe that God exists and that God loves us back unconditionally. In fact, faith in God is the divine gift which allows us to love others because we have learned to trust.

Lent seems to be a good time to think about love—God’s love, and all the kinds of love we share with others.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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