As a rule, I generally hate Valentine’s Day.
This is not necessarily because I was going steady forever and then had my heart broken, or even that Cupid has been following me everywhere shooting me in the back.
It’s a bit more subtle than that. I tend to hate Valentine’s Day in the same way that Christians tend to hate Halloween. I don’t really hate it, but I feel that as a single person, if I’m not actively protesting it, then I’m doing something wrong.
Today, however, was an exception. For the first time in twenty-one years (okay, okay, so the first five or so don’t count. I know), I felt content. I even felt released from my unwritten duty as a single person to condemn Valentine’s Day.
I spent a great deal of the day relaxed. I had breakfast and went to a wonderful church service. It wasn’t my home church, which threw me off kilter a bit, but when I stopped focusing on what I could get out of the service, and rather on what God could share with me through the service, I felt at ease.
The pastor spoke on living out God’s plan for our lives, even when that plan doesn’t line up with what we have in mind for our futures. Though the pastor mostly spoke in vague church language, I saw the real person budding up out of the recesses of himself as he shared with us memories of his college experience, and how God called him to ministry despite his business major.
I think about that a lot. I often have a picture of what my life will look like in my head. I think all of us do. Does it not keep us going? The problem, however, is whenever that image becomes too specific. Too refined. When that image ceases to be a guide and instead slowly transforms into an idol.
Letting go of that idol, I think, has a lot to do with my peaceful Valentine’s Day. I’m sure that anyone with a general knowledge of Psychology could and probably would attribute my thoughts to stages of grief, but I would argue otherwise.
Holding on to that idol was choking me! I often wonder what my life would look like were I dating. Occasionally, I have pictures in my head of mildly rebellious dates involving portable tea kettles in odd places or picnics on rooftops. It’s all very sappy and a little bit funny if you think about if for a while.
But these past two weeks have really changed the way that I look at all of this. All too often, I am focused upon me, and what I can get out of something. It is because of this that I play out every single possible outcome in my head so that I ideally leave with the best outcome. Which never happens.
I have really been convicted by what I can give in all of my friendships. Rather than organizing all of my “possibilities” in a way that works out the best for me, what if I instead looked at the people that God has immediately placed in my life, and wonder what I could do for them? What if I really loved the girls I know, rather than looking at them as “possibilities”?
I still have relapses, because I am a selfish person. And a curious person. For the uninitiated, this is a bad combination.
Just last night, I went with a couple of friends to see The Wolfman, because I have a soft spot in my heart for mocking movies with terrible dialogue and cartoonish special effects. The girl I sat next to was a friend of a friend, and during the silliest moments of the film, I tried to be charming, or at least what passes in my mind for charming.
There is this one scene where the werewolf decapitates someone, and I said, “Heads up!” with a wasn’t that kind of funny look to the girl next to me. Instead of even the faintest chuckle, I received the kind of glare that parents give their children when they interrupt a church service.
Those are the moments that worry me. Because those are the moments that I look into the idol of my future and see myself alone.
I didn’t have a moment like that today, because somewhere along the way, I realized that I am not alone.
Now, I have heard so many analogies between Jesus loving us and people loving other people that I think I might become blue in the face should anyone else mention another tired example. And yet, despite how silly our analogies may become, I feel that we continue to bring up these analogies because there is at least the teensiest little bit of Truth in them.
I thought about getting to know Jesus, and how different that is, really, from getting to know someone romantically. The small talk, the ups and downs. The connection that, at the end of the day, defies explanation.
How do you know when you love someone? Half of my friends tell me that it doesn’t matter whom you love, that destiny plays no part, and that you choose someone to love, whom you learn to love in time. The rest of my friends tell me that this is not the case, that we are destined to love a particular person.
There have been times where I have thought one camp to be completely right and the other completely wrong. And vice versa. Now, looking back on it all, I wonder if either camp is completely right at all. I wonder if each camp is right within a spectrum.
I think that love is a process. A choice. While I am hesitant to call it “destiny”, I have a great deal of difficulty denying this mystical aspect of love. Perhaps it is “destiny”, perhaps it is lunacy. I don’t know. But I feel that there is some sort of undeniable connection that all of us find in certain people that we don’t find in others. For whatever reason, we are drawn to specific people.
Give the credit to sociology. Give the credit to psychology. Give the credit to biology. But I wonder, perhaps, if there is something about the people in our lives, and that we just meet certain people. Not that it is necessarily “destiny” per se, but that there is something mystical about love. Something that is beyond our words. Beyond our logic.
The harder I try to apply a formula to love, the more exceptions I find.
So, in my relationship with Jesus, there is just something mystical about that. Some strange connection. And I felt it today.
I may be alone in the world’s eyes, but in God’s eyes I am not. When I look back towards the idol of what I think my future should look like, and am scared and lonely, I look ahead into the eyes of Jesus. And I realize, that doesn’t matter anymore.
I may find what everyday people recognize as “romantic love”. Then again, I may not. But that doesn’t matter, because Jesus is so much bigger than any of that.
I realize that it sounds lame and cultish to say that Jesus is your valentine. But there was something undeniable about the peace I’ve found all day. And in that peace, I’ve been able to let slowly go of the idol of what I think my future should look like. I’ve been able to look at the single life in an entirely different light. And it is for this that I am thankful. What are you thankful for today?