Perhaps it’s because we’re officially in the month of heart-shaped boxes that I had that fleeting thought of, “ugh. Valentine’s Day.” Yes, it really was more of a cave-man grunting-type thought rather than a full coherent sentence, but it quickly got pushed to the wayside with something else: the words a friend had told me minutes earlier:
“I love you, my friend.”
My friend, Nina, was my first adult, non-family, female friend to tell me she loved me many years ago.
“I uh, um, well,” I probably stammered back, unsure how to respond. (Nina, if you’re reading this, please accept my very belated apologies, along with an equally overdue word of thanks).
It took me a while to understand what Nina was saying, words that later on were echoed by other non-family folk.
Love. A pure, caring, with-you kind of thing.
I couldn’t accept it because it didn’t fit for multiple reasons, one being that I’d only heard that phrase from family, both the blood kind and the marriage ones. I didn’t believe someone not in a blood-binding kind of way would love me.
Nor did I think that getting divorced would teach me about love.
Yup, you read that right. Before I say any more on that, hear me out: I revere marriage. It is a holy institution, something not to be entered into lightly and definitely not something to be exited at whim.
In those three letters lies a story of heartache, hope, and a bitter surrender to the reality that we have no control over others’ emotions, actions, perceptions or anything else. So when the gavel sounded as the judge reduced the holy to a thing of the past, I guess I figured love was gone.
I was wrong.
In the time since becoming a divorcee last year, I’ve been told “I love you” more times than I can count. Sure, maybe not as frequently as when the phrase was some sort of expected salutation in my marriage, words said before bed just like “hello” is said when answering a phone.
No, this “I love you” phrase means something entirely different now.
Many, many of my friends have told me this in the past year. Let me stop there for a second.
Many, many of my friends. Wow. How lucky am I? These with-you girls mean it when they say they love me. They have my back, cover me in prayer, and listen on those days when something has me worked up (and even better, go on to put me in place when necessary rather than sitting back and watching me slide off the tracks).
Yes, they tell me they love me. I still feel a bit like that first day when Nina said those words to me, a touch of that “are girls supposed to say this to each other?” mixed with “this is awkward” sprinkled with a huge dose of, “but maybe this is closer to what love really is than what I previously thought.”
Actions and words. That’s what James tells us about love. I think prior to getting divorced I primarily had people who said they loved me but their actions said otherwise. But now, when many might think I receive less love than ever before, I can’t help but say it’s the exact opposite. The love I receive from my friends surpasses anything words alone could convince a heart of. They say the words, perhaps to remind me of something I had to fight desperately to remember: I am valuable and am loved.
So as Valentine’s Day draws near, don’t worry about this divorcee in that regard because I’ll share the thing I know now that I didn’t believe a year ago: I am loved. And so are you.
Happy chocolate-fest, love-celebrating Valentine’s Day!