Do you remember the Valentine’s Day celebrations in elementary school? Growing up in the snow-covered Midwest, Valentine’s Day breathed excitement into a sleepy month of February unfortunately situated on the calendar between winter and Spring break. Red, lace, and polka-dotted hearts hanging from every available space in our classroom were the signs of protest to the on-going grey of frigid days. Valentine’s Day brought excitement and fun—a welcome respite from the monotony of winter.
As students, we greeted the first art class of February with unbridled creativity– knowing that the project would be the infamous, if not even sacred Valentine’s Day Box. Blue prints were drawn, glitter, glue, and hearts were gathered and the all-important “opening” measured, large enough to receive the bouquet of tootsie roll suckers from one or two overly zealous and generous classmates.
The making of the Valentine’s Day cards always paled in comparison to the creation of this bedazzled receptacle of love. They, on the other hand, were a tedious activity of repetitive salutations, 30 times over, with expertly crafted messages whose aim was to strike the right balance between friendship and cupid’s arrow.
If these yesteryear memories bring some sense of nostalgia, you probably also remember that terrifying moment when you realized that in all the excitement, you forgot to cut the opening in your box. Your exasperation was shared by other classmates who found themselves in the same predicament, and that of your disheveled teacher whose angst came from a completely different place. There on your desk stood a beautiful box with no way to receive what it was intended and created to receive, love.
In truth, our Christian walk is not too far off from this adored Hallmark tradition. Have you ever considered the way we approach love is completely opposite to how God approaches love? Scripture tells us that God is lavish, extravagant, unembarrassed and sacrificial. “How deep and how wide is my love for you” (Ephesians 3:18), “nothing can separate us from His love” (Romans 8:39) and ultimately, “He so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son to die for us” (John 3:16). We on the other hand can be shy, withholding, self-interested and conditional.
God does not worry about His Valentines box. God spends His time on the Valentine’s and we are the undeservingly, bedazzled objects of His affection.
In 1 Samuel 16 verse 7 the Lord could not be much more clear about what is important to Him. In this verse when Saul questions David’s size and stature, God says:
“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
In addition, our tendency to decorate the outside of our lives with Bible study, prayer groups, and Sunday school classes are much like the Valentines’ Day boxes of old. These are all wonderful activities that draw us closer to Him, but when we are walking in disobedience, pride, bitterness, and unforgiveness we limit our ability to receive His love.
This Valentine’s Day join me in an activity that is quite counter to our Valentine’s culture. First, read through Psalm 51 and ponder verse 17. Next, cut out a heart from construction paper and tear it in half. On one-half of the heart write out the brokenness of your life and on the other-half write out examples of God’s faithfulness. Then pray this prayer:
Lord, I give you my broken and contrite heart. I am overwhelmed with all the blessings you have bestowed upon me, even in my sin. Please knit this heart back together, by renewing a steadfast spirit within me. As you transform my thoughts and actions, teach me to reach out to others with your lavish love. Help me to receive the fullness of your intentions, lead me to repentance by your Holy Spirit when I stray, and please Lord quicken the time between the two. In Christ Jesus – Amen
We love because God loved us first. We also will never be capable of returning His love in the same measure that He extends it to us, but we are capable of recognizing our need for it and this is the all He asks of us.
Written by Rosey Brausen, producer of Afternoons with Bill Arnold.