God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 1 John 4:16
so begins the marriage service. I’m not intending to lead into a reflection on the topic of St Valentine’s Day, nor do I intend to ponder the traditions around this saint’s day, but I do think the custom of marking this day an opportunity to pause for a moment to think about those we love; and to just think for a moment of the marvellous gift and capacity we have for loving. Our hearts are not limited in their capacity to love, and it is a thanksgiving indeed when we consider how our hearts grow in love to let more people in.
I’m sure none of us would dispute the centrality and need of love for human flourishing. God knew the best way for our happy growth was through the context of the family, and so each of us are born dependant, and need the love and support of our parents to flourish and to thrive. As we grow, becoming aware of ourselves and then others in the world, at first, our idea of love – a certain kind of love, is perhaps limited in our minds to being with one person, and so our focus, energies, and time is taken up with this. However, in this, our hearts have already grown, and have become bigger – to include another person with whom we feel ‘at home’. The joy, of course, is that our capacity to love grows through the gift of children and wider family; our godchildren, our close friends over many years.
The human journey is one of learning to love more, and God grows us as we learn to hold this incredible gift. We are made to be with others; in family, in society, in smaller and larger groups. We are each called to leave our own self-centredness and to build up and seek the flourishing of others, and only through this, do we find that we are enriched and built up too. So, the month of February, which is, as far as the church year goes, a quiet month, is an opportunity to simply pause for a bit and think about those we love. It can be a time to take a few moments to remember all those we love and have loved; to realise just how much love has featured in our lives, being a constant thread – how many people this love journey has already woven into our lives, and importantly, to give thanks to God for the incredible gift of love. I mean – can you really imagine a home, a family, a neighbourhood, a community, a world, without it?!