It was fun perusing Facebook last weekend to see what others had received on Valentine’s Day–flowers, chocolates and other gifts. However, it was the comments written by single friends that touched me. For many, our cultural emphasis so strongly bent on romantic love, makes the occasion a painful irritant to get through. While there is nothing sacred about the day, I do believe that to remember the history behind the occasion provides a wonderful opportunity for Christians to love neighbors, friends and family “more deeply from the heart.” (I Peter 1:22)
I was grateful on that same day to find three posts (also on Facebook) that offered a healthier, more thoughtful way to rethink our approach to Valentines Day as a means of blessing others:
- The first post was a blatant reminder of the gap between how our culture celebrates loving through romanticism, and the actual basis of Valentine’s Day–sacrificial love. While our culture has largely reduced our understanding in commemorating the occasion with formula of Hearts + Chocolate = Love–Really?–we can richly benefit from the treasury of sacrificial love demonstrated by a man who truly loved God and his neighbors.
“Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15:13 (ESV)
- The second post was a cartoon, taken from the cover of New Yorker magazine. I totally related to the worry and doubt on the man’s face as he stared at the series of deadbolts and locks lining the inside of his door. Yet, when I saw the Valentine that someone had slipped in despite all off his precautions, I found it to be a healthy reminder that, while we may be tempted to hide in uncertain times, Christians are called to reach out t0 others in the love, hope and mercy of Christ. Years ago I was challenged by a question someone asked, “If you were accused of being a Christian in a court of law, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Rather than allowing fear to rule us, we are called to love and serve others as we live out the gospel of hope.
“And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is LOVE.”
I Corinthians 13:13
- The last post was very personal. My second daughter, Amy, put up pictures of her family observing Valentine’s Day in the tradition that developed as our family grew. When my children were small and we were living in England, I helped my daughters (then, ages seven and almost five) make heart-shaped baskets “woven” out of contrasting colored construction paper. We loaded the baskets with handmade valentine cards and small, heart-shaped candies imprinted with such messages as, “love” and “be mine.” Early the next morning, the girls and I left those baskets hanging on the door knobs of our landlord and several neighbors who had become friends. We snuck off quickly, leaving no trace of our identities . . . or so we thought! Later that morning I received several telephone calls, thanking us for the baskets. Puzzled, I asked how they knew it was us? One friend laughingly put it this way, “I saw it hanging on the door and thought, ‘It was the Americans!’. . . we don’t celebrate Valentines Day in this country!” (It never occurred to me that Valentine’s Day was not universal!) My children still have fond memories of the parties we threw to love neighbors and friends on Valentine’s Day.
It was after returning to the States and our children entered their teens that I proactively morphed our family tradition to a more personal level. The change was prompted when picking up my oldest daughter as a freshman in high school. It was Valentine’s Day and I was shocked to see so many girls walking out of the school carrying bouquets of flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and other “gifts” that had been delivered to them in school from their boy friends. (In a culture that is so focused on building self-esteem, I find it astounding that such a practice was (or is) even allowed!) Desiring to override the confusion of equating self-worth and being loved by trivial gifts, we shifted gears within our family. From that time until our children finally left home we made Valentines Day a special day we all looked forward to:
- Special cards were made for one another that were affirming to that sibling or parent that was especially esteemed–“I appreciate how you . . . . “
- We dressed up to share our meal in the dining room, where the table was set with our best dishes and candles we burning.
- Dinner was kept simple but special since it usually was a week-day.
- After finishing our meal came the best part: when we opened the cards stacked at the top of each place-setting we had made earlier. Every card was read aloud and enjoyed as we took time to love each other.
It was interesting this week when I asked my children (long out of the family nest with families of their own) about their memories of those times. They all said they enjoyed and looked forward to our family celebration. The memory we all still laugh about was a card Luke (our youngest) made for Amy (at the time Luke was probably eleven and Amy almost 15) that said, “Dear Amy, I appreciate it when you leave me alone!” (That one kind of slipped under the radar of what we hoped to accomplish, but it definitely reflected the tension between siblings and their parents so it was allowed.) Another comment I heard, was how reading positive comments from their family at a time when the tensions of daily life seemed to prevail, was an especially sweet gift.
No matter what your circumstance may be, whether you are young, old, married or single, if you are a Christian I write to encourage you to consider looking beyond yourself for opportunities to love others. We live in a hurting and increasingly dangerous world that tempts us to run, but if we will live our lives intentionally and sacrificially as a reflection of our love for God and others, the rewards will truly be out of this world! Hearts + Chocolate = Love? No way!
All to His Glory!