Valentine’s Day is the time we typically celebrate romantic love by giving gifts or going on a special date with our boyfriend or husband. In recent years, Galentine’s Day has also cropped up for us ladies to celebrate our female friendships by spending time with or giving gifts to our special gals.
These are both so cool and beautiful but this V-Day I wanted to focus on a slightly different type of love. So I got in touch with the wonderful, joy-filled girl that is Sarah Schrack.
Sarah lives in what’s called a missional community, in Bournemouth – one of the most deprived areas in the UK. The community group of 25 aim to “live available and interruptible so they can show the love of Jesus to their neighbours in every day life”. Sarah lives in a house with three guys and two other girls and has a whole lot of wisdom to share about love.
I asked her first of all, why she decided to live in a community house. “It seemed like the way Jesus would live life!” she replies. “I think he was all about family and always put relationship above what we consider ‘ministry’. Doing life in such a genuine way with my best friends in order to reach people with the gospel was an obvious choice for me.”
I’m sure all of us know that living in close proximity to other people, especially those who we really love, can be more challenging than we’d thought. Sarah tells me some of what she has learnt from living in the house. “Living in community brings all your junk to the surface,” she says.
“It’s never been easy for me to be open and vulnerable, but in this kind of lifestyle I have to be. There can only be a depth of relationship if we are vulnerable, honest and real with one another. Even when it’s hard and scary, I have to be open with this family of mine and trust that they’re going to accept and love me unconditionally, like Jesus.”
When we experience that kind of love, it transforms us. I wonder how Sarah shows that kind of love. “There are going to be times in any relationship, romantic or platonic, when you don’t feel like loving someone,” she says. “But in those moments, love is a choice. And in our house we choose to love each other in the way that the other receives love. So some of us need to talk to feel loved, some of us need hugs, some of us need food or quality time. We often expect people to receive love the same way we do, but that’s not just reality. So we have to love according to the person rather than our own understanding.
“And it’s when we feel and know we are loved that we are transformed by it.”
Now I know not every one of you reading will be rushing to live in community. So how can we experience that kind of love in our day-to-day lives? “Go first“, Sarah says. “Invite a group of fellow single ladies out, not just to do something fun but to get to know the real versions of everyone. Be the first to be vulnerable or to ask deep questions. It’s so worth it to love that way and eventually be loved that way back.”
It’s easy to think that this kind of love is just a filler, something to do while you’re waiting or until you’re ready for the real love – romantic love. Is romantic love the best love? “I don’t think there’s one love that’s above the others. It’s all love, and it all comes from Jesus,” Sarah answers. “My relationship with a husband would be different to a relationship with a best friend, but they’re both still beautiful and mighty and of God.
“I think romantic love, ultimately marriage, is held in such a high esteem because it requires a covenant.”
So romantic love is different, but not necessarily above any others. Sometimes it feels that way, and sometimes singleness is hard. How should we handle struggling with being single or feeling lonely?
“Admit it sucks,” Sarah tells me. “That’s real. Being single can be lonely and it can be hard and that’s okay. Don’t try to deny that fact or pretend like you’re okay if you’re not. You’ll go through seasons of singleness that are amazing and fun, and you’ll go through seasons of singleness that are painful. Jesus can be found in both though! So be honest with Him about whatever you’re feeling and find other women of God you can be honest with too.”
“Jesus knows your heart so deeply and so intimately,” she says in closing. “No one else can know you like Him, and no one else is supposed to. We’re made to be loved by Him first and foremost, but we’re also made to be loved by the family He’s given us. Community living, whether all under one roof or just building intentional deep relationships with one another, is an incredible taste of real, genuine, deep love. What a privilege it is to love and to be loved by His family and by Him!”
This Valentine’s Day, whether you are married, single or somewhere in between, I hope you know that you are loved infinitely by the King of the Universe, and that there is so much love available for you to know and experience right here and now in the family of God!