Today is perhaps the most emotionally painful day of the year. It is the day that is set apart by our culture to celebrate dating, romance, love, and even marriage. As in many of our holidays, the origin of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in a bit of mystery. The legends include a defiant priest name Valentine who defied the Roman Emperor Claudius II who outlawed marriage to prevent romance from dissuading young men from being willing to join the military. Valentine surreptitiously performed marriages in secret until discovered and executed.
Another legend has the origin connected to a fertility festival of Luperci, an order of Roman priests who would offer a goat as a blood sacrifice on this day and then strips the goat’s hide, dip it in the goat’s blood, and then slap all of the virgin women to anoint them for fertility. Later in the day, the names of all the young women would be placed into a large urn and the men would come and choose a name to “court” throughout that year. By the end of the 5th century AD, Pope Gelasius outlawed the Lupercalia and declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. Throughout the centuries, the emphasis on love and romance has adopted cultural trappings so that today, men lavish the women of their affection with candy, flowers, cards, gifts, and all manner of romance.
Although the idea is attractive - as everyone has a desire to be cared for and romanced, few ever experience the true joys of love and intimacy. This holiday often serves to highlight the loneliness in which many people live. Looking to others for affirmation and affection most often ends in tragic disappointment and discouragement. For single people, this holiday scrapes the scab off a barely covered sore of soul - especially for those who have no “prospect.” Their sense of loneliness is painful on this day - and they rue its approach from year to year.
Another group for whom Valentine’s Day is painful is the widow/widower who has the ability to recall better days when their partner was someone that loved and was loved. Their sense of auld lang syne causes deep reflection and often leads to tears shed in privacy. Some reflect on those days of romance and have such fond memories, that they are bolstered in the midst of their loneliness by gratitude and affections warmed by better days.
Another group who find Valentine’s Day painful is the divorced. These folks reflect on how their lives didn’t take the path that they had originally envisioned. On their blissful wedding day, they were filled with hope and optimism of the “living happily ever after.” Valentine’s Day for them can feel like they are standing in a bell tower of loneliness trying to block out the painful vibrations of their disappointment and loneliness.
Still another group for whom Valentine’s Day can be very painful of heart are married people whose spouse is distant and uncaring. These people yearn to know the intimacy of the love supposedly being celebrated, but find that it is illusive and unavailable. In fact, any holiday expression of love or affection that belies the reality of estrangement existing between them alienates even further and makes the feeling of loneliness all the more pronounced.
Suffice it to say that Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for more than it is a day of joy. Ultimately, we understand that the only true “Lover” with whom we find perfect and complete love and affection - the kind that is truly intimate and unconditional is that love that we enjoy with our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. May this Valentine’s Day bring you a sense of terrific delight as you celebrate the greatest love that anyone has ever, or will ever know, through the further cultivation of your love for Christ … Be His Valentine!