I purchased a box of valentines for each of my kids, to hand out at school for the kids in their classrooms. Naturally, my 6 year old son was really excited about the Marvel superhero box, which came with little tattoos to give away.
He told me he was finished writing out his valentines, but I noticed half the box was leftover. I asked him why there were so many left, he told me, “Mom, girls don’t like superheroes;” he had written none for the girls in his class.
It was probably true, Ironman and the Hulk are not as likely to be a girl’s favourite, but I was also suspicious that he just wanted to keep the rest of the tattoos for himself.
We talked about how he knew the girls wouldn’t like them, then he realized some of them did. We read through the sayings on the cards, and understood that they were meant to be an encouragement, even if a superhero wasn’t their favourite.
We finished all the valentines, even for the girls.
Our expressions of love can be like that too sometimes. I make assumptions about what someone will, or won’t, appreciate, I feel nervous about offering it, since they may not like it, or I just want to keep something for myself.
Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love. It’s interesting that St. Valentine, in his ambiguous history, was a martyr for the Christian faith. He was in jail either for marrying Christian men and women, (which was against Roman law at the time), or because he helped Christians escape from jail (history isn’t certain on all the details).
Either way, there were consequences for his acts of love. Dire consequences. Yet he did it anyway.
God designed creation, he saw everything he made was good, but when the fruit was too appealing, sin entered the world and imprinted on our nature. Unable to rescue ourselves, lost in sin, our trajectory was bleak.
But God made a way.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4-5).
God’s love for us cost him, “for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16), who, “was wounded for our transgressions he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brough us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5). This story of extravagant love is not a story that’s lost in time, it is the gospel, beginning in Genesis. Perhaps we tire of hearing it, John 3:16 is often the first verse we’ve memorized, and its familiarity glazes over our unprepared hearts.
Good news, this very good news, is intended for us today. Because he died, “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and rose again” (2 Cor 5:15) and, living for him means loving God with all our heart, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Love can be hard.
In our marriages, the butterflies of dating fade away, our kids make choices differently than we want them to, our coworkers may not be the easiest to work with, and our churches are full of diverse people with unique talents and abilities. Relationships are challenging, and the pride of my heart yearns for my way, my plan and my ideas; I certainly don’t help a lot, when I’m fixed on me.
I need the help of the Spirit. I need more of the grace of God. To take my eyes off of myself, and paying attention to those around me, to risk an act of love and care in humble obedience to who God calls me to be.
That doesn’t mean I’ll be handing out superhero valentines today, but I’ll be learning, step-by-step, that love requires something from me. To love others is to make known the love of God, and he will be glorified in it.
How will you grow in showing love today?