One stupid day. A day when many are tempted to gauge how beloved they are based on worldly standards.
The history is murky. There may have been several St. Valentine figures in the early Christian church. There may have been an effort by the Church to Christianize a pagan fertility festival, which possibly involved the sacrifice of dogs. The middle of February has various cultish and agronomic associations as well (such as the beginning of birds’ mating season). Written Valentines and love poems began to appear in the 1400s, but didn’t gain popularity until the mid 18th century. The first printed cards replaced handwritten notes, and were popularized in 1900s, largely due to improvements in printing technology, and cheaper postage rates. Today, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card-sending holiday. Women purchase 85 percent of all valentines. (Excerpted from History.com)
Ladies, most of us are born romantics, but some of us sit around and wait for the “perfect” man to fulfill our dreams. Even many of us married ladies haven’t met “him” yet. I love my husband, he’s a wonderful man in so many ways, but I’ve long ago let go of that “dream Valentine.” Single ladies, don’t bemoan your singleness! Love yourself as the awesome person God created. Celebrate your wonderful self. Draw that bath. Pour that wine, or your favorite tea. Light the candles, get that manicure. Break out the chocolate and your favorite tunes, and pamper yourself, love yourself!
I pitifully have bought into the garish commercialism of it all for most of my life. As a child, I of course exchanged Valentines in the classroom. I recall considering who I did and didn’t want to give a Valentine to, in a time before “everyone must be included.” Even when I was forced to give one to each classmate, I carefully considered who would get the prettiest ones or the ugliest ones out of my box. My grandmothers always sent Valentines cards, often with a few crisp bills inside. I’ve always loved to give gifts, so buying chocolates for my Mom was fun—I’m sure it also had something to do with my brother and me being able to partake in that lovely Whitman’s rectangle of assorted chocolates with a map on the lid (it didn’t stop my stinky little brother from his game of biting into one, making an “ick” face, and then being allowed to try another, while Mother sacrificially took his uneaten half). As we do each year, we bought and sent cards to our children, and Dad put some crisp twenties in (we can only hope they check their mailboxes, something millennials rarely do). Hubby is always very diligent in having the requisite Hallmark along with some goodies—depending on the dieting trend, it might be chocolates, a meal out, wine, or other creative goodies; those that can be shared are preferred. He was literally at the bedroom door when I awoke this morning, excited to give me my Valentine’s card and gifts—so sweet. I usually bring my culinary skills to bear to prepare a “romantic dinner and dessert,” since I abhor the overpriced and crowded restaurant scene, not to mention the gross commercialization of “love.”
I do remember those years in my single 20-something life, facing a Valentine’s alone with not even a remote prospect for romance. In the years when my marriage was on the rocks, each Valentine’s Day seemed like such a farce to me. The messages of love mocked. I was hurting, big time. In an effort to not be mean and forgo giving a card, I’d search high and low for the least romantic or idealistic card; it otherwise just felt so fake (there are tons of “you’re a good father/provider” cards out there… as well as the humorous ones that dance around love). Many were the times it felt like I must’ve been the only one without love. I can only imagine that social media makes it even worse these days. I see a niece posting thoughts on being alone on Valentine’s, knowing that at 33 she (like me at that age) desperately wants the affirmation of being a couple and in love. The commercialism of Valentine’s Day can be so damaging to one’s self-love and self-worth.
And yes, there was a time when hot, physical intimacy seemed to be de rigueur on Valentine’s Day: the scented bubble bath; the sexy lingerie; the expectations for wild and passionate sex. These days? Perhaps it will be a cuddle, a long hug, a sweet kiss, and if we’re lucky, some low-key nookie. Do I miss the wild and passionate sex? A little, sometimes a lot. But I realize now that this isn’t the factor that necessarily sustains true love. True love actually can be a little inconvenient and a bit messy at times. But what it does do is endure.
I look back now and think, SERIOUSLY? Have we been so manipulated to think that love is expressed in one special day? What about the other 364?
I get it. It is hard to understand how loved we are by God. It’s not a touchy-feeling-huggy love. It’s definitely a much more intellectual love, a love that we experience over the many joys and trials of life, and by being habitually in the Word. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” 1 John 4:16. It’s about how God so loved me to give his one and only son so that I might have eternal life. It’s about how each day is given to me as a gift, each person who matters in my life is an undeserved blessing, each moment in which I savor food or walk with the sun on my face is given to me purely by grace. My worth isn’t in the size of the Valentine’s card I got, it is in God’s love for me.
And it’s about how I love others.
On this day, I remind us to not lose sight of the fact…