Loved by many, dreaded by more.
For the majority of my life, I have been in that second category.
In elementary school, it was just fun. We all got Valentines from each person in our class, along with some sort of sweet treat. Once middle school hit, it was pretty much the same, except I completely overanalyzed every Valentine I received from a boy. Did he LIKE me like me, or was I just a classmate? Turns out, I was just a classmate.
And then in high school…the carnations.
Ugh, those carnations. Each year, as February 14th approached, our Student Government Association began to sell them. It was a great, budget friendly way to tell someone that you cared, were interested, or thinking about them. The best/worst part about the carnations was the way they were delivered. If someone was to receive one, or two, or NINE, their name was called out by a representative in front of the entire class - a reminder that they were special. My name was rarely called out. And if it was, it was a carnation from a sweet friend, trying to remind me that there was solidarity in singleness. In not being pursued. Don’t get me wrong…I appreciated it. But it didn’t quite numb the pain, and it didn’t quite erase how small I felt.
I now have a Forever Valentine whom I love and am so thankful for. But I can’t quite let go of the bits of heartbreak I've felt in the past. Mostly because I know that every person feels that way at some point, whether on February 14th or a random Tuesday in September. We all feel and experience disappointment, weakened hope, rejection, and loneliness. We all long for that moment when someone will call out our name and hand us a carnation, reminding us that we are special and loved. That yearning is a part of each of our stories. And so I’m hesitant to celebrate.
But here’s the danger in not celebrating. If we don’t realize and celebrate how loved we are, it is much more difficult to show love to the world around us. And we are called, meant, to show love to the world around us. So I write what’s next, not to give you a self-esteem boost (although I’m all about that!), but to spur us on to love others well.
1 John 3:1 tells us that we are lavishly loved. Lavishly loved. You are loved like someone walked in the room, proudly called out your name in front of the entire class, and started pouring load after load after load of carnations on your desk.
Hundreds upon hundreds.
Thousands upon thousands.
Carnations for days, my friend.
Let that sink in for a bit.
And once it has sunk in…
What do you do with that love that has been lavished on you?
What do you do with all those carnations?
I would suggest giving them away.
Give them away to the people who are hurting. Give them away to the people in need. Give them away to the marginalized. Give them away to your enemy. Give them away to those who hold a different opinion or perspective. Give them away to the people who don’t yet realize how lavishly loved they are.
Give them away.
You won’t run out. I promise. Sometimes there is risk in the kind of love we are called to, but the risk does not involve God’s love running out. It is okay, it is safe, to love generously.
And so this Valentines Day, whatever our relationship status or circumstance might be, I hope we will remember that we are lavishly loved. And I hope we will choose to live out that love each and every day.
As Sarah Bessey wrote,
“Live like you are loved.”
Because you are.