Who doesn’t want love? After basic physical needs of water, food, and shelter, the most basic human needs is love. Each of us wants to know love. Each of us wants to be loved. Each of us wants to love another.
The human longing for love is normal and good, but for those who say they have been burned by love through infidelity, abandonment, or divorce the fear of love can run deep. No one wants to feel that pain twice in one lifetime.
To make matters worse, the victim of divorce can be surrounded by confusion and often questions her own self-worth comparing herself to others and finding herself outclassed. The betrayed spouse asks what she did that was so completely unlovable, how she warranted this action. She inflicts upon herself a blame the victim mentality, a mentality frowned upon by society except in divorce when many engage in an “it takes two” belief despite evidence to the contrary.
The abandoned spouse puts his guard up and asks whether love is worth the price he may have to pay. He wonders if he will be burned again by allowing himself to love, but there is hope for divorced Catholics in the clearing up of a few misconceptions associated with love and what love truly means.
The word love is often associated with fire. We hear people talk of burning with love for another person, and sometimes love does exist in the red hot emotion. Love can be passionate and blazing and visibly hot, as it should be, but it is often the smoldering coals buried deep that keep the flames leaping. It is often the fuel that is added to the fire that determines how long that fire will last. Fire fed with cheap talk and misrepresentations, fanned with the influence of worldly friends, and the pursuit of worldly goals will not last the way fire fed with the Good Word, fanned by the input of positive friendships, and the mutual pursuit of a heavenly union will. Love must be watched and tended to. Sparks must be blown on slowly. Fires must be fanned carefully. Flames must be watched to ensure they do not burn out of control or in an unsafe place.
To have a passionate burning love is a good thing, a gift from God, but sometimes something goes wrong and one claims to have been burned by love, but that is just not possible. What burns is rejection, infidelity, betrayal, but not love. Love is never harmful. Love is never painful. Love is always good and right and pure. 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 tells us what love is. Love is patient. Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13 also tells us what love is not. Love is not rude. It is not jealous. It is not self serving. It is not boastful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoings. 1 Corinthians 13 says more about what love is not than about what love is. Perhaps, even back then, Saint Paul knew how grossly misunderstood love is.
Perhaps the greatest misconception by the divorced when it comes to love does not lie in the actions of the unfaithful spouse, but in the way the victim perceives himself. When going through abandonment and betrayal, divorceWe never will be alone. and infidelity, one must be patient with oneself. One must be kind with oneself. One must love oneself. It is natural to question self worth and to wonder if we are worthy of being loved again. It is understandable to become cynical and predict that we will end up in the same pitiable place, but that is not the love we are called to.
The truth is, your ex is right. You don’t deserve love as God intended Love to be. No one does. Left alone, we are deserving of the cheap burning misrepresentations of love we see and experience today. Left alone, we are nothing. Fortunately, you are not left alone. You have never been alone. You were called into existence by the Father. You have been made given His image, by His touch, in His Agape love for you. Yes, despite the flaws in your hearts, the imperfections of your actions, and the stumbling of your words, contrary to the entirety of inadequacies you carry, the Father in Heaven remains with you day in and day out, and He loves you unconditionally, unselfishly, eternally.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each burn with a true love for you. Their burning love never hurts, but always warms, remolds, and refines. Having been chosen and loved by the Trinity, divorced Catholics can find hope this Saint Valentine’s Day. Divorced Catholics can find joy in knowing they may never be worthy as the world measures worth, but they are more than worthy as the Lord measures worth. They can know their worth is not tied up in the actions of today, but in the eternal Agape love of the Lord. Agape love, the love that refines even those who have been burned and makes them more beautiful in the eyes of those who truly see. Agape love becomes a concept those who feel it strive to pass on. Agape love is something that can only be given by God and can only be mirrored by someone who has understood what it means to receive it.
On this Saint Valentine’s Day, do not get caught up measuring yourself as your ex does. Do not get caught up in tying your worth to the existence of a significant other. Pray for a spouse now if you feel that is your calling, but do not get caught up in the belief that your life only has worth if you “find someone else,” as many will tell you to do, but instead get caught up in knowing you have been truly and wonderfully made, that you as a single person are more powerful to love and can do more to advance God’s kingdom than if you were distracted by marriage. Know that Agape love calls you to love all and that God the Father loves you enough to show you this when so many others fail to see it. Know that right now, you can be praying to strengthen marriages worldwide, that you can be praying for a healing of broken families, that you can give your cries to the Holy Spirit in ways that those who have not been burned cannot. Know that you are powerful because you are known fully and loved fully. Know that you are not alone, that you are the recipient of Agape love and as a recipient of Agape love, you are also called to and protected by Agape love, and that is really what Saint Valentine’s Day is all about.