It’s that time of year when we frantically stroll the aisles of the dollar store or Target, allowing our children to pick out tiny cards attached to ridiculous amounts of sugar to individually address to their classmates. I distinctly remember the excitement and horror of Valentine’s Day in elementary school. You see, I grew up before teachers mandated that you only bring for one person what you also brought for the entire class. There were bouquets and balloons and bears and all the trimmings when I was in elementary school. The agony and the ecstasy, all contained in tiny little paper plate mailboxes.
Seriously though, I had my boys addressing their Valentine’s last night, these cute little robot ones with sayings like, “I am nuts and bolts about you” and “I like you a bot.” I myself became somewhat of a robot, creating my own little assembly line that Ford himself would have been jealous of. I desperately wanted to go to bed which meant I desperately needed the boys to go to bed which meant I needed those robots addressed post-haste.
This morning, facing a new day with new mercies, the boys and I sat down to read about St. Valentine, the patron saint of little cards and hugs and kisses, right? Actually, the story of this priest who lives around 200 AD has much more pith and passion than any of our modern day loves tales or squishy Valentine’s dates.
Under the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius the Cruel, marriage for soldiers was outlawed under the premise that soldiers who had no wife or family to lose would fight more valiantly than those who did. This law, in combination with a highly promiscuous society, belittled the committed love of marriage and went against the way that God naturally wired up his creation. Valentine bravely continued to marry couples in the Church until he was sent to prison and sentenced to beating by clubs and beheading.
While in prison, he befriended the jailor’s blind daughter who is reported to have been healed by the Lord through him. Before his execution, he wrote the girl a note and signed it, “From Your Valentine.”
We have come a long way since then. We have bought hook, line & sinker into a sentimentalized view of love. Hugs, kisses, roses, hot dates. These have their place, but love is far deeper, far more broken and beautiful. This morning the weight of the reality of committed love and sacrifice hit me like a ton of bricks.
C.S. Lewis captured this sentiment far better than I every could when he wrote the following:
“What we call being in love is a glorious state, and in several ways, good for us…Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best things. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble thing, but it is still a feeling. Now, no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity or even to last at all…But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense- love as distinct from being in love- is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God.”
As I looked at my boys’ piles of Valentine’s Cards, ready for Friday, I found myself praying for them this morning. Praying that they would know and experience and fight for the Biblical concept of love in the midst of an increasingly sentimentalized society. I found myself praying that they would see this love modeled in our lives, as my husband and I walk with Christ and one another. I found myself praying that many more Valentine’s would be raised up, those willing to sacrifice their very lives for the truth.
Here’s to hugs, kisses, and commitment, all empowered by the powerful love of Christ.