Written by Ashleigh. For more of Ashleigh’s writings check out #WiN
This year will be my tenth Valentine’s Day with my husband, Matt. With nearly a decade’s worth of Valentine’s Day experience, my feelings toward the holiday have fluxed between absolute disdain to ooey, gooey love and back again. I’m happy to say that, now approaching the tail end of my twenties, I have landed somewhere in the middle – neither hating nor coveting this day but trying to see it for what it is. When listening to the latest episode, Bouquets and Boxed Chocolates, I was pleasantly surprised by the guys’ take on VDay and loved hearing about how they like to celebrate with their wives. I’d like to take a moment to expound on Brody’s point when he said, “…don’t let your relationship be based merely upon those experiences that are, quite frankly, marketed towards you.” I love the frankness of this statement and wholeheartedly agree – so let’s dig a little deeper. When it comes to St. Valentine, it’s important to talk about three things: the origin of St. Valentine, what it is, and what it is not.
Origin Story of Valentine’s Day
There are a few different origin stories floating out there that attempt to explain the beginnings of this heart-infested holiday but my personal favorite is about a pastor named Valentine. He lived under the Roman rule of Claudius II or, as some called him, Claudius the Cruel. Claudius became convinced that single men would make better soldiers since they wouldn’t be worried about their wives and families back home. He then decided to make marriage ceremonies illegal and thus end the distraction. Valentine, believing so firmly in love and marriage, defied the decree and continued performing secret marriage ceremonies. He was eventually caught and martyred, of course, and we celebrate Valentine’s Day in his memory; honoring his sacrifice in the name of love. This is a much simplified version of the story and more information can be found online. However, this is my favorite possible origin story and, as nobody knows for sure how it all went down, it is the history I will choose to remember. Learning this story is what kept me from condemning Valentine’s day altogether and allowed me to consider that maybe there’s a correct way to approach this Hallmark holiday.
-What Valentine’s Day is Not
1. A Competition
We often look outside of our relationship for confirmation that everything is as it should be instead of measuring the depths within. While this can give healthy perspective it more often than not inspires unhealthy competition. Valentine’s Day fuels that fire; pushing couples to reign above one another with their extravagant VDay gifts. Even worse, some of us succumb to competition within the relationship itself, battling our loved ones in an attempt outdo one another’s gifts. This can be fun but often it quickly goes too far – leaving both people with a bitter taste in their mouth. Even in the mildest of cases, a fair amount of comparison still happens. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Likewise, using this holiday as a system by which to measure the depth of a relationship will do nothing but disappoint and ultimately teaches us nothing.
2. A Reason to Attempt to Drown Your Significant Other in Worldly Wealth
Many people’s primary love language is gift giving and Valentine’s Day provides them with the opportunity to express their love in such a way. However, it’s easy to see that many of us go slightly overboard; using the holiday as an excuse for extravagant spending. Statistics show that the average person spends around $137 dollars on Valentine’s Day festivities making it the second highest grossing US holiday. Gift giving is a wonderful expression of love but we need to balance that expression with the Creator’s command to be good stewards of our resources. We are also reminded in Matthew 6:19-21 not to invest so much in world materials:
19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Gifts are a beautiful way to show love – but let us remember to strive for balance in lieu of extravagance. Or rather, let us be extravagant in our gestures while maintaining moderation in our gifts.
3. An Excuse to Only be Loving Once a Year
Life is messy and exhausting; we all know this to be true. So it’s easy to see how certain things, or people, take a ride in the backseat. For some of us, Valentine’s Day is really more like Redemption Day; our one shot to make up for all the times throughout the year where we didn’t fully cherish our loved one. The problem with this is easy to see: we can’t fit all of our love, romance, and attention into one day and expect it to last through the year. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, talks about how everyone has a “love tank”. Our love tank is filled by loving acts done by our significant others. When we don’t do those things, our tanks are empty and we cannot function at full capacity. No one expects to stop for gas only one time a year; why should we expect to do the same with acts of love for our families?
-What Valentine’s Day Is
1. A Celebration
Love is amazing. Marriage is beautiful. Friendships are life changing. Let’s celebrate that! We focus a lot of our time celebrating the specific attributes of our partners but what about just celebrating the existence of love in general. In scripture we encounter four types of love: agape (unconditional love), eros (romantic love), phileo (brotherly love) and storge (familial love).
That’s a lot of love! We don’t have to box ourselves into thinking VDay is strictly a romantic celebration; we can celebrate the love we share with our family, friends, and even pets. Give thanks to the Creator for His love for us and the capacity He has given us to love in return.
2. A Reason to Stop and Reflect
We can even take a moment and remember the ultimate act of love: Christ’s sacrifice. Pause and think about how different life would be without that grace available to us. Not only that but what things in your life would be different if it weren’t for that all consuming, awe inspiring love? In light of that, it seems a little silly to buy yet another stuffed puppy dog with a heart in its mouth. Those aren’t bad or evil things in and of themselves! But when the trimmings of a holiday become the focus, our vision begins to dim and we can no longer find our way to the truth.
3. An Excuse to Indulge in One Another’s Company
This is a moment we can set aside, shut out the world, and be with our loved one at the exclusion of all else. The emails, blog posts, grocery lists, and cleaning can wait while we simply sit and soak up a whole lot of love. Be together without distraction whether that means sharing a nice meal, taking a drive, or staying home the point is to try. Let’s make them our focus and remember the bond we share. Whether it’s our family, boyfriend, dog, or best friend they’re significant to us and us to them. Treasure that above the food and fancy flowers. In the end, it’s a heart issue. It doesn’t matter what we do, as long as we approach it with the right heart.
So this Valentine’s Day let us remember that it doesn’t matter where we go, whether it’s to Stoney River on West End or maybe The Grilled Cheeserie on Belcourt. It matters who we’re with and why we’re together. Instead of presents give presence. Also, remember who we have to thank for the ultimate act of love – our Creator.