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Monday, February 10, 2014

Celebrating Valentine's Day...When it's Just You....

  Finding Celebration Solo

I once knew a woman who hated Mother’s Day.  She avoided church that day, and experienced personal struggles every time the holiday rolled around.  Why?  Because, at something like 70 years of age, she always wrestled with the stigma of, as she put it, being an “old maid,” and never having either a husband nor a child.  Though if I were to tell you about her life, you would actually be pretty impressed with all the other things she accomplished.  

I think of her, when I think of people who struggle at Valentine’s Day, because they don’t have a special “valentine” to share it with, or, in the case of divorce, the valentine love they once had no longer cares for them.  In these cases, Valentine’s Day is often as painful a reminder of love lost as Mother’s Day was a struggle for my friend.  So what would a Valentine’s Day for one look like, then?  I’d like to offer some reflection, and then give some specific tips in the last couple of paragraphs (if you want you may jump to them).

For many individuals after a divorce or simply living life without a sweetheart, trips to the drugstores or other merchants can be emotionally charged at this time of year.  To the point that, sometimes it is easier/better to have stocked up ahead of time so as to not have to go any more than necessary.  If you can’t avoid going, then once in the store, you give wide berth to the aisle dripping with red, pink, hearts, candy and flowers.  Because that aisle is not for you.  At least, not now.  In fact, a glance in that direction can evevn bring a tear, as you contemplate love lost, love betrayed, or love never experienced.   Personally, I remember how even the radio felt like an enemy conspiracy, as love song after love song would play, oblivious to the fact that my own love song had ended with a sour note.  Is there a way to reclaim the celebration of love, when love has disappointed you? 

I believe there is.

I have lots of wise friends.  Really.  I remember something one of them said to me in the dark and lonely days after my divorce.  He said, in a very simple way, “This marriage died.  The dream of what marriage is meant to be did not die.”   (At least, that’s a rough translation and recollection…the wording isn't exact.)  In his gentle way, he was reminding me to not let a specific situation deny for me the power and meaning of the reality that underlies that situation.  Let me see if I can explain another way.

Plato taught a concept of the ideal versus the shadowy imitation of that reality we experience here.  The example I used to use in class was the idea of justice.  I would ask how many people believed there is such a thing as true justice, and generally people acknowledged that there is.  Then I would ask how many believed that their image of justice was well reflected in the courtroom practices across our nation.  Most were aware of the ways courtroom justice failed to live up to their expectations.  But, as I would point out, just because the kind of justice we experience here does not live up to that ideal justice we believe in, does not mean that there is no such thing as true justice.  I, of course, believe that these ideals originate from God and are planted deep within our souls.  

Well, the same is true of love.  Even the best of relationships here on earth do not live up to the ideal of love that we have come to believe in.  Instead, they are a hint, a foretaste, a sampling of love as it was meant to be.  And that full ideal of love is not only hinted at in the marriage relationships, but exists in friendships, family connections, acts of generosity and self-sacrifice.  Ultimately, of course, it is found in God alone, for scripture is clear that God himself is love, and all other love must be measured against his.  So, while broken marriage or a lonely heart may have missed out on the ideal of love in marital bliss, so every other relationship is also short of that ideal to some degree.  And hints of the ideal love are found in a much wider context than our romantic relationships.

So make your Valentine’s Day a celebration of LOVE ITSELF, rather than limiting it to celebrating merely romantic relationships, which may or may not reflect love in your life at this time.

So having said that, it seems to me useful to realize that the best of Valentine’s Day is that it is a celebration of love, and that even in good marriages, the celebration is of the hints of ideal love found there that continue to nurture the dream and longing for more perfect love.  Therefore, if we pursue this line of thinking, there are some things we can do to celebrate the true/ideal meaning of Valentine’s Day, whether we are married or living solo:

1)      Love is best seen in the giving rather than the receiving.  This Valentine’s Day, who do YOU know that might need to know that somebody loves and is thinking of them?  Find a simple way to show them YOU care (Valentine’s Card or not!).

2)    Love is best experienced when tangibly expressed.  There are people you love in ways other than a marital/romantic relationship.  They like candy, flowers, cards, phone calls and nice dinners as much as any spouse would.

3)    Love is sometimes best achieved when one is honest about needs, hopes and hurts.  There are others who love YOU, though you may not think of them at this time of year.   Be bold enough to call and tell one or two of them of your struggle.  They might surprise you.

4)    Take some time to meditate on the scripture’s teachings about the way you are loved by God, which is far higher than the love of any other being can ever have for you.  Read 1 John, if you don’t know where to begin.  Ask a fellow believer to talk with you about God’s love.  Find a way to sit in God’s presence and soak up the absolute love he offers

5)    Odds are you know a person who has no knowledge of God’s love for him or her.  What better celebration of Valentine’s Day could there be than to help some one discover the love that is higher, deeper, broader and longer than human knowledge can comprehend?

And this year, it’s okay to walk at the opposite end of the store if you need to do so.  That aisle may become important for a later chapter in your life.  Or that aisle may simply be for somebody else.  Your love may be found in the grocery aisle and the meal you prepare for a child, a friend, or canned food placed in the food bank.  Happy Valentine’s Day….because YOU are a special someone!  God says so!

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