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Love is the Lesson

Unity of Birmingham Guest Writer Series:

By Jane Phillips

“The right way to wholeness is made up of faithful detours and wrong turnings.”

~Carl Jung

I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, 2024, which also happens to be Ash

Wednesday in the Christian calendar. The last time that happened was 1945, another

time when the world was at war with itself. Personally, I think Valentine’s day is a made-

up event to boost the coffers of the chocolate and flower industries, but that’s just me.

Ash Wednesday, on the other hand, has been observed since the 10 th century in the

Catholic Church and was adopted in the 11th century by all of Christendom. Ash

Wednesday ushers in forty days of fasting and repentance in the lead-up to Easter and

is a representation of the ancient ritual of sackcloth and ashes.

These two observations—Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day—seem

diametrically opposite to me. One is about romantic love and lavish gifting, and the

other, about shame and punishment. As opposites, they are a good example of how life

deals the cards this way and that, and we navigate the vicissitudes as best we can. We

do our best to stay centered and clear-headed so as not to crash on the rocks as the

flow of life takes us where it wants. It’s not personal—no one is out to get us. It’s just the

way life is. In fact, as stated in Jung’s quote above, life is designed to be

challenging—chaotic and dangerous one-minute, smooth sailing the next. It keeps us

awake, learning and growing.

The important thing is to not miss the lesson—either in love or in life’s

challenges. Love is the most beautiful part of being alive. It is not a “Hallmark” sort of

thing, but a core part of our nature. We are conceived in love, and we have the option of

living in love all our days and beyond. I’m watching the birds coming to my feeder right

now. They’re choosing mates and strutting around like maniacs to attract them. The

drive to partner and procreate is likely the strongest one in all species. It’s how we keep

life going. How we keep our DNA in the mainstream. But we also screw up, we hurt

each other, we make terrible decisions that damage everyone around us. Sometimes

love and chaos exist together, confusing as that is. At times, random things happen that

simply level us, that break us down and bring us to our knees. It’s love that pulls us

back to our feet, brushes us off and sends us back into the world. We are designed to

be in love with life.

That’s the nature of existence on the blue planet—"faithful detours and wrong

turnings,” and how grateful we are to be human. What a gift life is! Joy and sorrow in

equal measure. Sunlight and darkness in balance.

As Rumi directs in his poem “Guest House”:

“…Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight!”

And so it is,


Jane Philips is a retired Special Education teacher, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Licensed Massage Therapist. She has also lead Spirituality Groups, Wisdom Circles, drumming circles, and she wrote a daily blog for twelve years called Spiritually Speaking.

Jane is currently working on a memoir titled, Old Crazy Town. She is a fifth-generation quilter.

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