Yesterday, A friend caught me lingering after the bell in my classroom with my chin in my hand. “What’s wrong?” she asked?
“Nothing much. I’m just really out of it.” Because I am not going to admit that Valentine’s Day is getting to me.
Because I’m too cool to admit that I need anyone. Because I’m too old to be looking for things I know aren’t there. Because I already know what my problem is.
Valentines day is weird in the way it entitles couples to gush and single people (women) to seethe. No one’s really sure what the holiday is about; everyone accepts the commercial construct, yet we let it have this hold over us. We use it as license to act either silly or spiteful.
Three of my sweetest students yesterday–adorable girls– wore black to “protest” the holiday. It was funny; this is fine if you’re in high school.
But scrolling through Pinterest, there was no end to the sarcastic posts about the single girl’s discouragement. They’re there because we’re too cool to admit we need anyone. But in theory, everyone in my Pinterest world is my age. Everyone–including me–is too old for that.
You’re right, pinners and protesters: There IS nothing special about the day.
There is nothing special about the challenge to be cheerful and the struggle with contentment.
All holidays make us face our human hunger for connection–for communion. Part of their glory is their capacity to meet that need, even if only for a day. Part of their power is when they don’t. Valentine’s Day is especially bad at this, but New Year’s Eve gets to share in the blame. When something spotlights the solitary, we feel very poor.
Valentine’s Day isn’t special. They call it “Poor in Spirit” for a reason.
When we don’t have a “date” and we want one, when we don’t have someone who makes us feel as special as we hope we are–as special as we can’t make ourselves feel on our own–it’s hard. Valentine’s day inspires us to believe the grass is greener, that people with boyfriends and husbands (or girlfriends and wives) are happier.
But that is a toxic lie.
At the very least, it’s illogical: people in relationships are not free from the struggle for worth or value, and they still have to face loneliness and displacement. They’re still disappointed when the person who is supposed to love them misses the mark, or they miss the mark at loving their person despite the best intentions.
At the very worst, it feeds the Comparison Monster.
Speaking for women, this ugly guy is in our make-up. (I can’t speak for men, though I have my suspicions). Without thinking, we hold up our lives against one of our sisters’ and judge–either her life or our own. We come up wanting. Or we come up wanting what she has and resenting her for it.
For me, that Monster will grab a deeper and more terrible hold if I let him. You see, I don’t just compare my life to someone else’s, I compare my life to my own expectations. I expected life would look different from this. I expected I’d have what I wanted by now. I expected I’d be thinner, taller, prettier, well-adjusted, more secure, and that I would have outgrown my issues with loneliness and belonging. I thought I’d have days filled with adventure. And travel.
I thought, by now, I’d have my crap together.
When I make these comparisons, I give them permission to rob me of the Joy in this day, cut me off from the Love it holds, and blind me to the Providence already in it.
All the candy for Valentines day, all the gifts and flowers it seems everyone else is getting are power foods for the Monster that mangles our ability to accept what we have is our loving God’s best version of life for us, and our ability to be happy for the gifts enjoyed by our sisters.
This guy is a violent thief, and he does his damage all year long.
Valentine’s day put me in a funk; I was on the edge of discouragement. The edge of my discouragement is always the edge of my Faith.
It takes Faith to believe in God; it takes faith to believe that He is loving; it takes faith to believe He is worthy of our waiting and gratitude.
It takes Faith to believe we are Loved and worth it.
When we can’t accept that God really loves us, we can’t see what we already have is an extravagant gift. When we can’t accept God really loves us, we can’t believe we we are lovely–Washed clean and beautiful–even when there’s no one around to affirm that (or at least affirm it well.)
When we can’t accept that God really loves us, we turn people into measuring sticks. We can only love because He first loved us.
Jesus, you told us, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” More than I want anything else, I want to see You. I want to know the Father and love Him with an undivided heart.
You have already freed me from the stranglehold of the Comparison Monster, now please help me live like it. I need you, your Love, and your Grace.
I confess that in the face of displacement, disappointment, and fear my faith is weak. Please be my strength.
Help me to see that I already have everything I need, and that I already have all the Love I need. Grant me delight in your presence so that I may see You abundance. I have faith that it’s there.
On Valentine’s Day, on this day, and on all days, teach me to love you better and by that love, to more fully love the people you have generously given me.
I love you.