I have a love-hate relationship with the day. I know I’m not the only one.
It began in middle and high school when I would watch girls parade through the halls with their flowers and teddy bears and chocolate and balloons. I was a senior before I had a real valentine.
My sweet Daddy always sent flowers to the school so I wouldn’t be empty-handed. Bless his heart. I’m smiling now at the tenderhearted gesture. I’m a blessed girl to have a daddy like him.
Yet, every year as the Valentine’s floated through campus, I felt disappointment well up. I felt left out. I should have realized Daddy’s roses were sweeter than the gift of a teenage boyfriend. But I didn’t.
The inner-Valentine turmoil continued into college.
There was the year “I was but I wasn’t” dating a guy. We were just friends. We had mutually decided not to celebrate the day together. Yet I secretly hoped…
I was left disappointed.
Then I met Prince Charming. Our first Valentine’s Day was ushered in with the most brilliant display of a dozen pale pink roses. My entire sorority house oohed and aahed over what is still the most gorgeous arrangement of flowers I have ever received.
And so began a different set of Valentine expectations.
I expected Prince Charming to romance me. To wine and dine me. To be creative and brilliant in his planning. Every year.
After nineteen years of Valentine’s Days that expectation is wholly unfair. And in reality? It was unfair to begin with.
Selfish. I. am. selfish.
This realization dawns slowly. It’s uncomfortable—a scratchy wool sweater on bare skin. I want to rip it off and sink back into ignorance like a warm fleece blanket.
Because now I know. I know I have Valentine’s Day all wrong. That’s why I struggle with it.
In my mind, the day of love has always and forever been about who shows their love to me, who cares about me, who’s thinking of me. Not consciously. And it’s not that I don’t celebrate the loved ones in my life on this day. But deep down, in my dark secret places, I’m really thinking of myself.
That’s not love.
If Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year our culture celebrates love—in all of it’s beautiful forms—then I have things backwards.
While there is nothing wrong, ever wrong, in enjoying fresh bouquets and romantic dinners planned just for me, the question shouldn’t be who’s going to send me flowers, but rather who am I going to send flowers to.
Because true love—the real, tangible, not-afraid-to-get-messy love expects nothing in return. Nothing.
Love expects nothing.
And there it is. It’s knife-prick sharpness stabs the truth into my heart.
Love is the action that shouldn’t require a reaction.
Love is sacrifice. It’s service. It’s giving of your whole self. No. Love isn’t losing your identity. It’s not weathering abuse. But love is patient and it is kind.
I feel the shift deep.
Maybe this is why the Day of Love has only ever been a day I’ve wanted to get through. Because how can I celebrate love if I’m not actually the one putting my love in action? What’s to celebrate if my heart is full of the selfish—what’s in it for me? That attitude is the antithesis of love.
So this year? Valentine’s Day will be the day I celebrate how much I love those relationships I’m blessed with.
I get to celebrate my husband. My children. My friends. My sister and parents and grandparents and in-laws. And so many other beautiful souls placed in and around me. People who walk this life with me, holding me up and who refuse to leave me to walk alone.
Valentine’s Day is looking all sparkly. I can see its edges glimmering, catching the bits of light that love can shine.
Can you see it?
Let’s walk into this Valentine’s Day with full abandon—seeking to love well, to love fully.
Maybe then this day will become what it’s really meant to be.
A day to celebrate Love.