It was January 2. I stepped inside a CVS for toilet paper and was immediately thrust into a world of pink and red, blazing heart cutouts and sugary confections garlanding every aisle and corner. All the shelves were screaming: ‘Valentine’s Day draws near! Rejoice and show your love by giving the gift of diabetes!’ If you’d been suffering withdrawals from the end of the year celebrations here was your next fix: Valentine’s Day.
Back in my day, these were Valentines. I remember the joy of writing each of my friends’ names on their own card the night before, the thrill of seeing a little paper cut-out with a heart shaped lollipop waiting on my desk. Lovely if signed, but if anonymous, oh what palpitations, what speculation and scandal that occupied us for days.
Fast forward a couple of decades later and Valentine’s Day no longer holds the same level of childish innocence. On this day, you are either: single, dating, married, divorced, widowed. Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, Valentine’s Day may mean something very different to you. Perhaps today is a day of anticipation and excitement, fun plans or surprises with a special someone. Conversely, perhaps it’s a day of remembrance, pain, loneliness, and loss. Or perhaps you’re completely indifferent, today is no different from the rest.
Being single in my late 20’s I personally view Valentine’s Day as harmless fun. Jokingly do I refer to it as Singles Awareness Day (fittingly known as SAD), however I know many others view today with bitterness, anxiety, disdain. There’s a sense of longing, even a question of our worthiness of being loved, for sometimes the hardest person to love is the one staring back at you in the mirror.
But on this particular day, if we have a chance to celebrate love then we also have the opportunity to focus on a different kind of love. A love that requires no designated day of gifts, poems, or chocolate. That is God’s love. And thank God (literally) that He doesn’t love us the way we love ourselves.
For our love is imperfect, conditional, circumstantial.
God’s love is perfect, unconditional, eternal.
Our love is selective, proud, consuming.
God’s love is blind, humble, sacrificial.
There is no contest, God’s love is greater.
What good fortune that His love for us is not measured by the reciprocity of our affections or the grandiosity of our actions. God loves simply because He is love (1 John 4:8). And because He is love, we are loved in our most depraved, sinful moments, in the pits of despair, in the throes of loneliness. Truthfully we don’t deserve this kind of love, a species that wages war and kills one another for sport and retribution deserves extinction. So how is it that we have a Creator who loves us despite our terrible nature? The answer lies in Christ alone. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection gives us full access to the Father’s love and grace.
‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
But it wasn’t just God’s love for His son that gives us complete freedom, but Christ’s love for us that he willingly gave himself. He remained perfect in obedience and took the cup we could not take, humbly submitting to the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39).
‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:19-20)
Out of love, Jesus bore the wrath that was meant for us. But it was not to be the end, for his victory over death reconciled us wholly to the Father. And what gifts of this love: a crown of thorns more costly than the finest diamond, a drink of vinegar more intoxicating than the most aged wine, the nails in his hands far more piercing than the sharpest of Cupid’s arrows.
This is the love and joy we have access to not just one day of the year but 365 days of the year. Every minute, every hour is a moment spent with the One who loves us unsparingly. This is a love that endures, what an amazing, unfathomable gift.
So happy Valentine’s Day my friend, and know that wherever you may be, whether on the highest mountain top or lowest valley floor, you are so loved and cherished by the Father and that alone is a reason to celebrate.
‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved.’ (Ephesians 2:4-5)
‘We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:37-39)
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