I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. It has always been stressful, even as a child. In elementary school I stressed over selecting Valentine’s for the classroom exchange. The Valentines came in boxes of 25 or so, usually united with a singular theme, Mickey Mouse, Puppies, Kittens or The Monkees. On each card was printed some silly pun or mushy sentiment such as a kitten card with “Be my Purr-fect Valentine.” Picking the right theme was important. I pitied the boy whose mom bought him the box of puppy cards because she thought they were “cute.” Recess was not fun for him that day.
The night before Valentine’s Day I sat down with a list of the kids in my class and went through the agonizing process of selecting the appropriate card. The unwritten rule that a card had to be given to every child made it difficult. How do you pick out a Valentine for the toughest kid in the school? Pick the wrong card and you might end up gathering your teeth off of the blacktop. There was the additional challenge of selecting the one for the cute girl. You wanted it to be special, the best of the box.
The next day in class every child taped a white paper lunch bag, appropriately decorated, to the front of their desk. The girl’s bags were adorned with hearts and flowers, the boys typically with just their names, for if a boy’s bag was too decorated he would be spending recess with puppy card boy. Each child went around the room dropping their Valentines into each recipient’s bag. Some kids attached chocolate or boxes of candy hearts to the Valentines. I hated those kids. Show-offs.
When I opened each Valentine I always hoped that it would be special, that I would get one of the “good ones.” I wanted so desperately to be liked, to be one of the cool kids. I wasn’t, and somehow Valentine’s Day reinforced that.
Valentine’s Day can do that. It can reinforce the negative perceptions we have about ourselves and our relationships and can amplify our loneliness. This is my 34th Valentine’s Day with Lisa and romantic loneliness is a distant memory for me, but memories of loneliness still cause my heart to break for others on Valentine’s Day.
I think of those who so desperately want to be noticed and loved and who through no fault of their own have no one to call their own today. For them the floral displays and heart balloons in the Supermarket may bring sadness instead of joy. I think of some of the older people in my life who have been widowed and who now are without the Valentines that had been by their side for so many years and think of the heartache that comes with reminders of romance.
As I do I am reminded that this is the nature of earthly love. It can be elusive and frustrating. Even at its best, as it is in my marriage, it cannot last, as with all earthly things it will someday come to an end. So on this day of celebrating love I intentionally remind myself to be grateful for the only love that endures forever, the love that God has for His children. His promise, that He will never leave us or forsake us, helps sustain us through the lonely and difficult seasons of our lives.
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