By Dr. Michael A. Halleen
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” (1 John 4:7)
Valentine’s Day is coming up.This love business is a tricky thing. In western culture, we have it all wrapped up with emotion, as though love springs from liking someone enough to have warm feelings toward them. In fact, love is a way of acting toward another, regardless of feelings.
Mr. Alwin was my English teacher in high school and director of the junior class play in which I had a role requiring me to kiss Sally Brunzell. Inexperienced at sixteen, I had never kissed a girl before, and my first attempts in rehearsal were evidently awkward even beyond what’s expected in a high school play. Mr. Alwin called Sally and me into his classroom after school one afternoon and told us we had to improve. “I want you to practice here and now,” he said, “until you get it right!” He judiciously kept the door open and remained at his desk while we went to the back of the room to practice.
“No, no, no!” he said loudly after our first faltering attempts. “What’s the matter with you, Halleen?” (The fault obviously was mine.) I mumbled something to the effect that I could kiss Sally better if we loved each other. “Feelings have nothing to do with how to kiss her!” he roared from across the room. “This is for the stage!” He proceeded to give me specific direction on the proper techniques of a stage kiss. It was the first time I had to think about separating feelings of love from actions of love.
A few years later, while in college and living with my widowed grandfather, I asked him about something we had read in a student Bible study about loving God. I confessed that I was having a hard time mustering up any feelings for God. “Love for God has nothing to do with feelings,” this wise veteran preacher told me. “To love God is to obey God. It’s about what you do, not what you feel.”
Mr. Alwin’s classroom and my grandfather’s dinner table were two places where I began to understand love’s reality. Feelings come and go, but actions can be carried out with a degree of consistency. If love demands that I feel warm and cozy toward an enemy, or even a friend, I’m lost. But if it requires only that I act in a way that is kind and truthful, whatever my feelings, there’s hope. And that’s the love to which God calls us. That’s being a *true* valentine.
Sally’s and my stage kiss was carried out successfully. “I knew you could do it,” Mr. Alwin said.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Copyright 2009 Dr. Michael A. Halleen. Permission is granted to send this to others, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.
“Be my Valentine…forever.” – God