The True Spirit of Valentine’s Day
With the passing of another Valentine’s Day observance, I urge some caution be exercised as with the observance of Christmas: Don’t trivialize the spirit of the day. What I mean to say is that Valentine’s Day (just as with Christmas) is a special observance of something intangible, namely love. Unlike other holidays we observe, Christmas is the observance of a divine act of love sent by an invisible God, and Valentine’s Day (named after a follower of Christ, a martyred saint) focuses on remembering and honoring love by showing affection toward others in a public way.
And as with Christmas, Valentine’s Day is often trivialized through commercialism. In my observations of the business-end of February 14th, most commercialized efforts of marketeers and hawkers focus on the purchase for, rather than an observance in, love. Quite often the cheapening of the day through commercialism reduces the significance and meaning, which dampens the spirit of it. In similar Christmas-fashion, participants in the Valentine observance often become fixated on finding a perfect gift for a loved one rather than expressing the perfect gift of love from within themselves as God has always intended love to be given.
I submit to you that the inward manifestation of love in the heart (that is the being God imparted inside of each created human) is of paramount importance to God. In fact, love is the catalyst of Creation and the engine that drives everything that genuinely matters in the world—love of God, love of others, love of self. During his earthly ministry some two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth identified the love of God and love of others as the two crucial commandments upon which the Old Testament law of Moses and all the Prophets rested.
What is so important about love that mankind should set aside a day of observance for it? In one of the most eloquent descriptions of love ever penned, the Apostle Paul described its essence in his first letter to the Corinthian church, as follows:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV)
I cannot help but think of God every time I read Paul’s description of love. Love has such a transforming influence upon my inner being. Love enables me to care for strangers and reach out to those who are less fortunate than me. Love moves me from a position of selfishness to that of selfless devotion toward others. The power of love is an incredible force for good and goodness. So honoring love in a day of observance should never be trivialized by outward manipulation or dismissed altogether by inaction.
My advice to you is not my own. Go out and love someone other than yourself. Break away from the shackles of vanity and conceit and genuinely reach out to another person with an act of patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, and goodness. Honor love by lifting up someone else by saying, “I love you” or “I am proud of you” or “You are important to me” in a genuine and heartfelt way. By doing so, you honor God who is the very essence and author of love itself. In the spirit of love be obedient to the command by God to love others.
It has been my experience that bad habits can be broken by the exercise of good ones. More often than not, breaking bad habits can be painful and costly. Because we have invested so much of our time and energy in the investment of our bad habits, conversion to good habits involves risks. In the same way, if we are unaccustomed to reaching out to others in love, we face the inherent risks of miscommunication, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and rejection. Yet God reassures the reader of Scripture that loving Him and others is worth the risk.
Who else but the author of love, the invisible God, would know and understand the intricacies of the invisible force called love? In love He created the universe, the heavens, the Earth, and you and me. In love, God sent His Only Son, Jesus, to deliver a message of hope and assurance of His love for mankind. In love, God sacrificed His best for our eternal future. And with God’s gift of love, He revealed His heart to everyone willing to receive it, at great risk of miscommunication, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and rejection. Still what God did to honor and remember love was nothing trivial. He took action and risked everything for love.
Could you possibly imagine for just one moment that God is actively thinking about you? Perhaps you have never felt the love of God upon your life. But is it possible that God reached out to you in love and you did not acknowledge or recognize it? What would the invisible force of love sent from an invisible God look like to any human being? I can only speak from my experience. Generally speaking, whenever I have felt the love of God, it has usually been through another human being either in writing, spoken words, selfless actions, or unexpected thoughtfulness. Is that not the true spirit of Valentine’s Day?
Go out and love someone other than yourself. Take a risk and love them selflessly. Do not think, “What’s in this for me?” Instead, think about that other person and what it might truly mean to them to be loved without an expectation or desire for reciprocation. Just love them and honor God by doing so. Love without hesitation, expectation, or limitation for that is exactly how God loves you.
If you want to feel God’s presence in your life go out and love others without any other motive than obedience to God’s commands. It will transform the way you think about God, others, and yourself. You will effectively replace old bad habits with new good ones by being obedient to God’s command to love.
Loving God has changed my life. Loving others sacrificially has transformed my thinking. What I once thought was of value, I have traded for something infinitely beyond price. Do yourself a favor and go out and love someone other than yourself.
And have a truly Happy Valentine’s Day!
(copyright 2014, Gregory Allen Doyle)