You could say I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. As a little brown girl growing up in a sea of white chocolate [cuz let’s be honest, we’re all at least part chocolate on the inside…unless of course you’re allergic,] I loved Valentine’s Day until the teacher no longer made it mandatory to give everyone in the class a card. That’s when I became acutely aware that I did not look like Barbie in any way, shape, or form.
But I grew up in a house where Dad always told us girls how beautiful we were, and so I believed it for the most part and continued to dream and hope for a little red heart to show up on my desk when February 14th came around. Never happened.
Then I started high school, and the diversity of the population in Windsor, Ontario helped. I had friends from all over the world, and whenever Valentine’s rolled around, the Student Council sold single roses and carnations and passed them out through the whole week, interrupting classes just to embarrass a lucky girl or guy recipient. Of course, if you didn’t get one, you teased the friend who got one, secretly wishing it were you. One year, I threw all my disappointments to the wind and sent a “Secret Admirer” carnation to a boy I crushed on. A rose seemed more appropriate for a defined relationship. I wanted to take things slow. Turns out, things moved so slowly, my secretly admired never figured out I was the sender and let’s just say this molasses never left the jar. Sigh.
Then college came along and dorm mates received pretty frilly pink and red packages all February from their long distance boyfriends. My box remained empty. Save the five hundred and one credit card applications. That promised everything under the sun save love.
I graduated from college and began teaching at a small private school in Humboldt Park, Chicago and something happened the summer before I met my husband. I fell in love. With God. I had been nurturing a young faith for about four years at this point, but I had never looked at God in terms of romance. Then one day I was raising my hands during a worship song that I had grown fond of and with my eyes closed. I knew it like I knew I was alive: someone from above took my hands and asked me to dance. It was Jesus. He wanted to dance with me.
Being left footed twice, I feared I’d step on his toes and surely I did and still do many a day. But to think of the God of the universe as someone who wanted to love me and fill my heart to capacity such that no gaps existed tickled every romantic bone in me. And I’m a serious romantic. So I said, “Yes, teach me to dance.”
And we began a new season in our relationship. In four years, like a diamond that showed me his facets, one at a time, I had met God the Father, God my King, God my Savior, and God My Source of Grace. Now it was time to meet God my First Love. I had had plenty of crushes in my life, but to fall in love with the one person who will never let you down is an experience beyond words.
So that spring, if you look in my journals, you’ll see pages upon pages full of cut out hearts, poetry, love songs, and sometimes just the words, “I love you” hand written over and over again. I felt loved and I wanted to love back. In the best way I knew how.
Funny how God would have it. The order. To allow me to know him as my heart keeper before I met the man who would steal my heart, humanly speaking. I remember my prayer during the season before I met Santhosh was simply, “Take my heart and give it to who you think will best take care of it. Because history shows that if you leave it up to me, I’ll probably mess that up too.”
And when this man four years younger than me waltzed into my life, my prayer changed to “Okay, if not him, someone just like him….pul-eeeeeze.”
This man I met over seventeen years ago and will be married to fourteen years this May ironically is also the man who bought me my first flowers. And funny thing about those flowers. Hubby had to return to Miami to finish school, so he mailed my then roommate a check for $7.50 and asked her to buy a nice little bouquet for me. Yes. You read it correctly! $7.50! Even back then, you couldn’t get much for that little. But my sweet and super generous roomie thought to throw in another $30, and my first flowers ever were a huge arrangement of roses, spider mums, tiger lilies and much more. And she also kept it a secret well past our wedding. Heck, she might have saved the relationship with that pivotal intervention! Love you K! And I promise, I’ll make hubby pay you back next time we get together!!
So about Valentine’s Day? I love that a day is set out once a year to pursue, think about, observe, and celebrate God’s best idea: LOVE! But I hate the pressure put on guys and girls to prove their love in one big gusto. And also, as a woman who spent the first twenty-four years of her life virtually single, I hate the feeling of inadequacy that seeps in at times when you don’t have a “valentine” per se.
What I do know is that whatever happens every February 14th every year, I’m so thankful I discovered a love that doesn’t depend on a day to celebrate God’s love for me.
So when I pluck at the petals from my First Love, it’s “He loves me. He loves me. He loves me.” All. Day. Long.
Valentine’s Day? Love? Hate? Tolerate?
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