I was fourteen years old when I had my first boyfriend. Our families were friends and our relationship grew primarily within the parameters of that friendship. By Valentine’s day, we had been “going out” for close to 5 months and I was both extremely giddy and nervous about what the LOVE holiday would hold for us. Twenty-something years later, and I do not remember all of the details surrounding that day but I do remember the pink conversation heart with the tiny printed words…Marry Me.
Our relationship lasted the length of the school-year and painfully ended that summer when he chose my best friend over me. The conversation heart lasted much longer, hidden in a tiny heart box, underneath my dresser drawer. The words on that heart became powerful within my heart and my mind and I clung to them for years, wondering if the hope that was stirred so deep within would actually come to be.
I didn’t marry that boy who became a man one day. If you had told me at the age of fourteen that my heart was just being ridiculous and there was no way that I could even understand love at that time, I probably would have smiled and tearfully agreed, but inside, I would have been holding up a certain finger, pointed your direction while mentally reminding myself never to share my feelings with you again. It’s true though, I know that now. I was not meant to understand love, at fourteen, as I do now and as I will.
What is love? What does it mean to you? For my nearly two year old, love is the way he feels about his froggy humidifier, aka his friend. It’s the way he lights up as soon as he walks into his room and runs over to hug and say hi to this green piece of plastic with big eyes and steam floating out of his ears. Love is what my five year old feels about sharks, legos, the movie Frozen, and his friends. In his words, “love is when you are kind to your friends by sharing a toy that is yours.”
There is more complexity as I ponder what love is for me. Is it the way I feel about sushi, uninterrupted sleep, music, friendships, God, my husband, my kids, and my family? Yes, and it is more.
In 1 Corinthians 13, we read, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Patient and kind, definitely not how I felt or responded when my youngest son screamed and cried because I couldn’t understand what he was asking for at lunchtime. Love does not envy. Is that what I felt the last time my friends took a vacation or when my brother and sister in law bought their new house? Love bears all things. Even a child with behavioral, sensory, and processing issues that I can’t control? Believes, hopes, and endures all things. All things? Sometimes it all just feels like too much.
Too much, too hard, too costly, too painful, too confusing, too sad, too exhausting…and on and on. When it all feels like too much, who is the hands and feet of Jesus to you? Who reminds you of the truth? Who listens and hears your hurts and your heart’s questions? Do you have someone? Does someone have you?
This month, I decided to show love by creating my own conversation hearts. I’ve invited the single women who I serve with in the youth group at our church to an evening out. I picked up some foam hearts and wrote many of the common sayings that are usually found on the candy hearts around Valentine’s day. I plan to use the hearts as a prompt to encourage the women to share stories and questions through laughter and possibly tears as we gather together to talk about love and all that it encompasses.
Will you join me? Maybe you would want to gather around your family or your closest friends. Sometimes spending time, just being together in meaningful connection, is all it takes to remind us that God loves us even in the midst of the questions, the heartache, and the “too muchness” of life.
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.