It’s that time of year again - in every supermarket you can’t miss the vast array of red roses, cards decorated with hearts, and chocolates wrapped in shiny foils. Then you switch on the TV and you can’t escape the cheesy romantic films interrupting every channel.
Valentine’s Day. Love it or hate it - you can’t escape it!
I didn't meet ‘Mr. Right’ until I was 37, and we got married a year later. That means I've had many experiences of disappointing Valentine's days over the years - of the card that never materialised; of the flowers that were never purchased; the chocolates that were never eaten. Being single on Valentine’s day pretty much sucked - although I did my best to ignore it, or try and make a joke about the van load of cards that were yet to be delivered.
Like most singles, it wasn’t really the card or the flowers I wanted, but the reality of being loved and belonging to another. I longed to be married, longed to be cherished, longed to be loved unconditionally. With every passing year, Valentine’s day just became a painful reminder of what I was missing-out on. It felt like everyone else was enjoying the 14th of February, but for me it was just a day to survive, to endure.
It can be very hard being single
especially when you get to the stage where most of your friends are married, or at least in committed relationships. It can be painfully lonely and isolating, and it has the potential to make you feel unlovable and unwanted. Even the most positive of singles, can feel this pain on their darker days.
There is one thing that helped me in those dark shadows cast by singleness, and that gave me deep-rooted joy and peace, even when there was no Valentine’s card. It was a single passage in the Bible which reminded me of how special and chosen I was. I read it to myself when singleness was tough, and especially on Valentine’s Day.
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. …… Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps his covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. [Deuteronomy 7:6-9 ESV]
The joy of knowing I was wanted and chosen by someone - and not just anyone, but by God, the creator of the universe. The peace of knowing I was God's treasured possession! I read these verses and knew I was someone special. Of course, these verses are addressed primarily to the people of Israel, but Peter echoes these words to the Christian believers in 1 Peter 2:9.
These wonderful truths in the Scripture made my heart sing and my spirit lift. It put the temporary struggles of my singleness into perspective.
At age 38, I finally had the privilege of walking down the aisle to marry my best friend Alan. You might think that marriage makes Valentine’s day a wonderful experience, full of romantic flowers and intimate dinners, making people feel fulfilled and complete.
Well, the honest truth is that Valentine’s day regularly disappoints, even when you are married. It is often underwhelming and sometimes just a box to tick. Many of my married friends ignore it completely - writing it off as a supermarket ploy to make money.
As a couple we do swap cards, and eat the occasional chocolate heart, but as for romantic dinners, it is more of a £15 meal-in for two - courtesy of Waitrose or Marks & Sparks. As nice as cards and these meals are, they do not ultimately satisfy, nor do they bring lasting joy. And it is a wonderful thing being married, but it is also hard work, and romance can be sparse in the busyness of work and bringing up children.
We can all think marriage will make us feel complete but it can still disappoint and be found lacking. As a married couple, we have been learning that perfect satisfaction and unconditional love can only be found in the one who created us and gave-up his life to win us for himself.
Christ giving up his life on the cross for us is the ultimate love story, and it is something we can all be a part of and all experience.
So this Valentine’s Day, spend some time reflecting on the Deuteronomy passage above as well as this verse in Romans:
God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]
.... and give thanks that you are loved unconditionally and treasured by your Father in heaven.