Valentine’s Day is over. Some people are sad to see it go, while others are rejoicing that they made it through the hype and high expectations. While searching for something else over the weekend, I found this reflection that I shared with some friends. I decided to share it here (with some minor edits) hoping that whether or not you enjoyed Valentine’s Day this year, you are encouraged that there is love beyond any one day.
LOVE BEYOND VALENTINE’S DAY
Today is Valentine’s Day and I’ve been struggling to find something to say about it. Then I saw a meme on Facebook that captured my attention. It was a photo of St. Valentine with the following caption:
“Roses are red. Violets are blue. I was beaten with clubs, beheaded, buried under the cover of darkness, disinterred by my followers and you commemorate my martyrdom by sending each other chocolates.”
While the statement is filled with irony and reflects the harshness of the cruel death St. Valentine is thought to have suffered, in a strange way it also reminds me of the complicated and conflicted ways in which many of us view Valentine’s Day—especially those of us who are separated or divorced. We’ve experienced (or are still going through) a hellacious situation and the world wants us to just get over it and be excited about chocolate!
Aggressive marketing campaigns send us messages about the perfect mate who will shower us with perfect gifts on this day and throughout our perfect life together. But, the Valentine’s Day hype does not tell the whole story of love and marriage, separation and divorce. Sometimes happily ever after is all too fleeting and what begins as a sincere commitment to love, honor and cherish, ends with a court date, divided property and a broken heart.
I, like most people, would have preferred to live the “happily ever after” version of the story. You know the version filled with Godiva chocolates and truffles, expensive jewelry, romantic dinners and Caribbean vacations—someone to love and be loved by, fully and unconditionally. In fact, I longed for it so much that I held on to the possibilities of what it could (and should) have been way too long instead of dealing with the unpleasant reality of what it was.
But, the tale of St. Valentine is one that strangely puts a different spin on the day for me. There are conflicting accounts of what happened to him and many of the details are sketchy. However, it is widely believed that he was a martyr, killed on Feb. 14 for sharing his faith at a time when Christians were being persecuted under the Roman Empire. How menial chocolates seem in comparison to the sacrifice that St. Valentine made to spread the Good News!
This story about St. Valentine and his willingness to sacrifice his life to proclaim the Gospel reassures me of the One who loves us fully and completely. It reminds us of a love that never fails. A love that keeps us and sustains us, that dries our tears and restores our joy. The love that Christ showed for us, the love that St. Valentine was willing to be persecuted for, is what we should be celebrating on Valentine’s and every day. It’s the love that lets me know, regardless of my situation—whether the marriage works or not, whether I’m showered with gifts or just receive a cheerful “Happy Valentine’s Day” from a store clerk; I am loved with an everlasting love, a purified love, an abiding love, a love that goes far beyond one day of the year. And so are you.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5: 8