Ah, February, where nature begins its journey back to life; trees start to bud, newly-born lambs frolic in the still icy fields, birds bill and coo in their search for a mate, and *a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … rugby. And the Six Nations Championship is about to begin. Of course many a young – and not so young – woman’s fancy turns the same way as I’m the first to acknowledge. Yes, Valentine’s Day happens but it passes me by. Husband and I long ago agreed to ignore the whole thing. As Hus-band has frequently pointed out: do you know how expensive flowers are for Valentine’s Day?
Come June we will have been married for forty years and we’re as happy as we’ve ever been. So we must be doing something right. But is it a secret only given to a few lucky individuals? Sometimes it seems that way.
I think today our idea of love is often warped by what we see on television or read in magazines or, worst of all, on social media. Love comes across as shortlived, easy, cheap, needy, something you can buy online and get rid of when you get bored.
But let me tell you what real love is.
Real love is being a born and bred Welsh rugby supporter doing her very best to cheer on her English husband’s team. (Except when they play Wales of course.) And that’s hard.
But one of the best descriptions of love that I know of was written two thousand years ago by a man not known for his romantic nature. Paul, the apostle, not one of my favourite people because I think he was a bit of a goody-two-shoes, wrote a letter to a group of people in Corinth.
He wrote that love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not proud or rude, not self-seeking or easily angered, and, he added, it keeps no record of wrongs. He makes it sound so simple. But how does it hold up in real life?
Well, I am patient unless Husband has the remote control and is flicking through channels so fast it appears that Phil Mitchell is about to beat up Mary Berry while Ken Barlow is waltzing with Claudia Winkleman.
But Husband is kind and warms my half of the bed every night. He also doesn’t boast but neither do I. Not even when Wales beat England in the rugby world cup. Well, not more than once. Or perhaps twice.
I’m not proud except of my grandchildren. Other people might think their grandchildren are the best in the world but, I’m sorry, that title is reserved for mine.
I’m not rude. It’s not rude to point out Husband’s faults when I’m doing it out of love so he can improve. It’s for his good in the end.
I’m not self-seeking unless there’s only one Malteser left in the box. Nor am I easily angered unless Husband tells me that I’m driving too close to the car in front when it is patently obvious that the car in front is going too slowly.
And I definitely don’t keep a record of wrongs. Husband may have spilled red wine on my clean tablecloth 159 times but I’m not keeping count.
Okay, so love in real life may not always attain the standards set by Paul and I’m not just talking about love for a partner but love for oneself and others. Love is hard work. Sometimes it hurts. And it costs. The world may see the price we pay in wrinkles and grey hairs – or bald pate in Husband’s case – but it doesn’t see the tears and the heartache.
Love is about giving. It takes effort. And a good sense of humour.
But if we can see our own and each other’s faults and love ourselves and each other in spite of them, surely we will be able to harness more of the power of love, ‘a force from above’**.
For the love Paul writes about is that of God, the love he has for each one of us. The love he demon-strated most clearly in giving his son to die for our wrongdoings.
The love of God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. His love never fails.
* Apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson
** Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1984