"I love Valentine’s Day," I said casually joining the conversation as I reached for another French fry, stretching across a table full of friends. Silence fell around me, and I looked up to blank, puzzled stares.
"Why would you like Valentine’s Day?" demanded my friend Jeremy, a man slightly disenchanted by the thought of a Feb. 14 alone after painfully ending a three-year relationship this past summer. Everyone nodded in agreed confusion. "What do you even do on Valentine’s Day?" he asked.
See … they know me. They know that I am 22 years old and have never been kissed. They know that I have never had a “real boyfriend." They know that I was in love, but my heart was broken in a painfully real way as it was revealed that the differences between a life lived for God and a life lived for the world are a gap too wide for even good intent to leap. I am an actionless, never-had-a-boyfriend, picky, slightly bitter, tall chick. In their eyes I have not had a time in my 22 single years where the day of red hearts and coupledom could be anticipated eagerly.
I paused and thought through the years: my dinners with friends, concerts attended, delivering flowers for my mom’s flower shop, an occasional sappy movie, even covering a shift for a coworker. I always have people to be with, things to do. My friends may see no reason for me to happily celebrate a holiday so focused on romantic love, but when I am surrounded by agape love—by my heavenly Father, family and friends—I cannot see how I could ever not. I am confounded at their disbelief in the day. Why, as Christians, would we not want to celebrate a day full of expressions of love?
As a Christian in my tumultuous 20s, I have many close friends still reeling in hurt from relationships ended. Many are spending this Valentine’s Day alone for the first time in years. We all have our hurts, and we all have our demons. Even those in happy relationships aren’t left untouched by love lost in this broken world. A song by the band Zelos says, "Tell me of the love He gave / For all time to be engraved." The lyrics reflect the musing of Paul as he wrote to the people of Corinth. "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." As Christians, in a world of selfishness, loneliness and false hopes of redemption in the arms of another mere human, we are the letter from God; we are writing the love of Christ on human hearts. Let’s respond to the calling; let’s love in the way we are called to, with whoever we are and however we can. That is vast.
And at the end of every Feb. 14, I go home, and I sit down, and I write a letter to someone that I might someday celebrate the day of love with, and be in love with. I tell him what I did, I say I’m waiting for him, I tell him the beautiful and awful things happening, how God is working in it, and how I pray for him. I tell him I love him already.
That may be pathetic. I’ve always been a slightly romantic, dreamy, nonsensical sort. I may be writing letters to a ghost that will never appear. But I have a beat-up, blue, college lined MEAD that has followed me from home to college and now to five states away as I begin a new chapter of my life, and hopefully someday it will find itself in the hands of a man that does not mind my giddiness over a "stupid Hallmark" holiday. Even if somehow God does change the desires of my heart and I spend the next 50 years still being a Valentine’s Day object of pity, I have a series of letters recording who I was and where I was going. As I skim through them, I see evidence of the years stripping away the innocence and naivety that has so often permeated my character, yet also revealing how God speaks in the pain, fear and loneliness. Each Feb. 14 has a different feel to the entry, but each has become a small piece, radiantly reflecting God’s grace in my story of faith.
God is good. Using a mere day in February to sulk it up will do no good for anyone. So this "day of love," whether you have a Valentine or not, I encourage you to not only surround yourself by love, but also dish it out. Don’t plan to merely insulate your heart by going out with friends or a partner, actively love them and show them that. Then go home, maybe write a letter, and then talk to God. Be honest—yell at Him, thank Him, talk to Him with a naked heart and ambition revealed. But remember—He loves you. Happy Valentine’s Day.