“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Now where have you heard that before? Pretty much every wedding you’ve been to - right? This scripture is from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, a popular reading often chosen for wedding ceremonies. It’s a beautiful passage, and if you pay close attention to the words, a challenging one. But last night I was lying in bed thinking about what to write for a Valentine’s Day blog and I started wondering why people attribute this scripture to marital relationships when the author of this passage, the apostle Paul, wasn’t talking about marriage at all.
The love between a husband and wife, when it is healthy, is definitely something to be celebrated. But as author Lauren Windle says in her book, Notes on Love (which is not actually out yet but one of the perks of being a magazine editor is that I get to read excellent books before they get published - pre-order here) that is far from the only example of love that exists in the world. Lauren talks about being supported by family and friends who helped her get clean from addictions to drugs and alcohol and who would not give up on her when she relapsed. Her experience has been that this kind of love often supersedes the love she has received from romantic partners.
My own experience has been similar. I loved my ex-husband and do not doubt that he loved me, but when I think about the words of sacrificial selflessness that characterise love in this scripture in 1 Corinthians, I have seen this more consistently in friends that stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Recently, I found myself homeless, right in the middle of a pandemic when our doors are closed against each other because of a rampant virus. But I have friends who refused to leave me without a roof over my head. I live alone and have tested negatively to COVID but it was still a risk for them to take me in, feed me, welcome me into their space.
This Valentine’s Day, I want to encourage you, whether you are single or in a relationship, to think outside of the box when it comes to love. I would even go so far as to say that there is something wrong if you’re in a relationship and Valentine’s Day is the only time you show love to your partner - and I say this to myself as much as to anyone! Love someone outside of your usual sphere of daily relationship. Look for someone to be patient with and to be kind to.
But if you’re struggling with that today, bask in the love God’s has for you and begin to love yourself. Because we are all deserving and worthy of love and knowing God’s incredible love for you is the foundation we need to love anyone else.
Tola-Doll Fisher (her friends call her “Doll”) is the editor of Premier Woman Alive magazine. Her first book, Still Standing - 100 Lessons From An Unsuccessful Life is available in print, digital and audio format.