Written by Carol Beaver, Church Advocate, Legacy Coalition
When holiday sales are over, stores quickly shift to the next holiday by stocking aisles and shelves with red and pink hearts, flying Cupids, lacey doilies, bags, and heart-shaped boxes of every imaginable sweet candy and chocolate heart. Hundreds of cards provide any loving sentiment you might want to share with someone you like or love.
Customers viewing the display have a variety of responses that may reflect their general opinion about Valentine’s Day or the topic of love. Indeed, we see more references to love than usual during this holiday.
Radio stations play some of the millions of love songs written over the years. Many couples delight to listen to “their” song. Some folks get their ideas about love from classic love songs written for their era. (For a little Valentine remembering, play some love songs from your era.)
Hopes and expectations regarding love abound. Romantics dream of their special relationship. Some hope for a Valentine’s Day proposal. Cynics think it is over-rated. Those wounded in love may try to ignore or weep away the day.
As a child, I loved Valentine’s Day. On the thirteenth, I sat at the kitchen table with a package of Valentine cards from Woolworths spread across the tabletop. Each card had a different phrase like “2 good 2 bee forgotten” written with a math problem and a bumblebee or “We’d make a peach of a pear,” with the two fruits hugging.
Close at hand was the mimeographed list of the students in the class. I would spend time thinking about which card matched which student. The card decisions became more complicated as we got older when we had our girl crushes on favorite boys. I remember my mom telling me I had five minutes before it was time to go to bed, and I couldn’t decide whether I wanted Billy to know I liked him.
Opening the cards the next day had the potential for ecstasy or disappointment. This phenomenon got worse with every passing year. I was relieved when we hit seventh grade and no longer were required to do Valentine’s cards.
As a college student with a boyfriend and later as a young bride, I looked forward to Valentine’s Day first with hope and then with anticipation. Dining out or going to a movie to celebrate as well as the card with the accompanying sentiment written inside made the day as sweet as the chocolate in the heart-shaped box.
Unfortunately, Valentine’s became the worst day of the year after my husband left. I did the mommy thing with my daughter watching her go through the same familiar stages I had done as she sat at our table and signed her Valentines.
Our Ladies’ Bible study was meeting one early February night. Informal discussions about the coming holiday must have brought a sad look in my eyes or maybe even a tear that I couldn’t wipe away fast enough. They asked why I didn’t like Valentine’s Day, and I said that it just didn’t fit me since I did not have a husband in my life.
The following year I received a beautiful old-fashioned Valentine in the mail with no signature, but a handwritten note wishing me a happy day and encouraging me to think about how much God and my friends loved me. I cried.
For seven years, I cried as the sweet Valentine card and sentiment arrived with its encouraging words. No amount of sleuthing brought an answer to the identity of the mystery writer.
On the eighth Valentine’s Day, the mystery “love” writer revealed herself because she had moved to another state. To this day, I think of her with great love because she cared enough about me to consistently speak love into my life in a small, sweet, subtle way that put a new kind of love in my heart.
Valentine’s day is not officially a Christian Holiday. Still, it provides an opportunity to consider God’s definition of love. All probably have stories about Valentines and loves that matured or loves that did not last. It does affect our perspective.
However, my sweet and lovely friend used Valentine’s Day to show me a picture of God’s love and opened my heart. Every year she remembered. Each year she persisted. She truly cared.
No human story can define love the way God does. In 1 John 4:10, we read, “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
As grandparents, every one of us has one or more love stories to tell. Not all are beautiful stories, but each has a lesson that we can share to help our grandchildren and the generations yet coming.
My mom and dad had an unlikely love story that matured following their marriage, not before. My marriage did not work, but I am not less in God’s sight because He loves me with an everlasting love.
Reader, you have your own love stories to tell. If you enjoy writing, put them on paper. If you like to talk, sit down with a grand family or grandchild and tell them your story and what you know of those earlier generational love stories. Through all the telling, let the places where God’s hand intervened, come forward in the story.
Remember to always point to The One whose love is steadfast, immovable, always abounding.
In the meantime, here is a fun link I found if you have grandchildren who like to get “Valentines.” I’m planning on sending each of my four grandchildren a little box with some of these ideas.