This Valentine is for you, from me, one single person to another.
If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing you’ve gone through many different emotions about and ways of processing this day over the years. Sometimes I poured myself into spending time with my friends who had little kids. They were always up for doing heart-shaped crafts and decorating cookies, and I didn’t feel like I needed a romantic partner to belong in those gatherings.
Other years I spent time with my single friends. One friend had a “Bleeding Hearts” party and we drank pink cocktails and ate good food together. It’s almost impossible to walk into these gatherings with unmixed feelings. I was glad to have somewhere to go and something to do, but I couldn’t help being a little wistful about the women dressing up in heels and the couples who were keeping dinner reservations and walking hand in hand.
One particularly memorable February 14, I took myself downtown to buy a pair of nice yoga pants. If you’re planning a shopping excursion that might benefit from attentive salespeople, I recommend Valentine’s Day. The store was empty except for a few salespeople who looked a little the worse for wear.
I chatted with one of them as he rung me up, folding my splurge purchase with care. “When I get off work, I’m just going home,” he said. “I don’t have anybody.”
“You have yourself,” I said, looking him in the eye. “You’re a person.”
I spoke those words out loud because I needed to hear them, too, as I walked down the street populated by couples in their own worlds. I needed to hear them as I went home and changed into my comfy new pants and put on a movie. Every year I get to spend Valentine’s Day with someone I love, no matter my relationship status. So often I choose to ignore that fact. So often I choose to ignore my lovely self.
Maybe you do this too?
Whether it’s this time of year, or any other time when you’re feeling dissatisfied with your relationships, maybe you forget you are a good idea God had, a person with value and interest and wondrous uniqueness. Maybe sometimes you forget the honor it is to bring that amazing person with you wherever you go? I do.
I’ll never be able to go along with the “Jesus is my boyfriend” way of thinking. I don’t think the Prince of Peace is my consolation prize until my knight in shining armor shows up. But I know God is near to the brokenhearted, and that there are lots of hearts that break just a little bit every time they see another box of candy hearts, a carefully chosen bouquet of flowers, or an engagement ring in the bottom of a champagne glass on TV. I think, in those moments, God is near to us. I think, in those moments, our heartbreak is not petty or less than or insignificant.
Maybe this is a day when you think about the ghosts of Valentine’s past. Last year at this time I was cooking a filet mignon for the first time; hopeful that the fledgling relationship I had entered into would be the real thing. I wore high heels and the steak turned out great, but the relationship didn’t last. Maybe you have your own bittersweet memories that loom larger just now. Maybe the memories are only of emptiness, of longing. Whatever the case, I hope you can look upon the past with forgiveness and let go of its hand with a gentle squeeze. Those days have done their part in your life, and in mine. Thank them for the dance and let them fade away into the mist.
I hope you wake up on Valentine’s Day knowing you are loved. People are always saying we should tell people we love them every day, not just on Valentine’s Day. Some of my married friends tell me about their plans for the day almost apologetically, perhaps because they think it might cause a twinge, which is kind. But I want to tell them I’m happy they are choosing to take the opportunity to be intentional about expressing their love to their partner. I hope they do this more often, that they buy flowers and small tokens of affection other times of the year, that they go to dinner or cook something lovely, just the two of them. But I’m glad they are choosing to communicate to another person that they are deeply beloved. I hope you will allow those true expressions of love to soak into you as well. Look for them, and you just might find a few directed at you. It is not pathetic to be deeply loved by your grandparents, your friends, parents, your siblings, your dog, or yourself.
Just like God is not a consolation prize, you are not a participation trophy. You were dreamed up before the creation of the world, when there was nothing and God had not yet spoken the light into being. You are so much more important than a day on the calendar. But more than that, you are worth being celebrated for every second of every day, and it would take eternity for you to be able to even begin to grasp the extent to which you are loved.
One day is a start.