The Real Valentine (it’s not at CVS)

Feb 14, 2017

Woodside Cemetery

Like most Hallmark holidays, Valentine’s Day, a day that supposedly promotes love, has a high probability of doing the opposite. Ok maybe not promoting “hate” – how about just plain old anxiety/depression?

I’ve noticed a trend in health care over the last few years. When I review a patient’s history, there is frequently a diagnosis of “Anxiety/Depression”. I see it so often I shorten it to “Anx/Dep”. If it’s a trend in health care, then it’s worth noting. The world, at least in these parts, is unhappy.

Happiness is an unalienable right, or at least the pursuit of it. But it can be elusive, the Golden Carrot that we are all running the race for, right? Happiness may be tied to a promotion, our children, a trip to the Caribbean. But it’s here, then gone, like stardust. Like Valentine’s Day.

I am old enough to remember Valentine’s Day before the PC Squad took it over. You could actually go to school and get zero Valentine’s Day cards while your classmates were showered with love and Snoopy Valentines. I’m not saying that ever happened to me. I think I got one or two anyway.

This time of year is dark for me. The shadow of my son’s birthday looms just ahead, February 19th, a silent day that I still don’t know what to do with, so I walk around in a fog, disoriented and moody. Years ago, the pain was crushing and I would gasp for breath. Nowadays it’s a familiar ache that reaches way down into the Mom place. I think it’s behind my heart. I could cry, but I’d rather do something Spence would like – tell someone about Jesus, love someone that needs it.

St. Valentine, so the story goes, had it kind of rough. Claudius, the emperor of Rome, felt that unmarried men would fight better, die better, if they weren’t tethered to sweethearts and those pesky kids so he decreed a ban on marriage. Valentine intervened, converting soldiers to Christianity before secretly marrying them. No box of chocolates – he was beaten, stoned then beheaded, on February 14th ,273 AD. And we pout if we get 6 roses instead of 12.

I’ve been trying to prepare a Bible study on Love for a group of female prisoners. I imagine “Anx/Dep” is pandemic in prisons. Love is a confusing concept, and so many have been abused, used and rejected under its banner. The problem is we can’t survive without it. God made us to love as much as we need breath.

I’m no expert on this topic. I am 60 and I still have to really focus on loving people the way Jesus wants me to. It’s just not natural – I want to step back and gently shut the door on them, turn and make some tea and be left alone with a good book. Spence had this uncanny sense of drawing towards those who were the most rejected. It was like Jesus was holding his hand and pointing the way to go, often obscure places no one else saw. It was not easy for him, a kid who was unbearably shy around people he really wished he could trust. When he was alone, he prayed for those he couldn’t get to personally. He didn’t get to see those prayers answered and he often mistook God’s silence for displeasure. Did I tell you he was stubborn too? That no matter how many times a mother tried to tell him he was loved, he argued. He got that from me. Maybe the stubborn part too. When I get to see him someday, I’d like to say, I told you so, but I doubt it will even come up.

When I look for Love, I look at Jesus. His love wasn’t some philosophical formula, or a flowery “Why can’t we all get along?” sermon. His love was sharp as a sword, His love made men put down their stones, His love was nailed to a cross. It was gritty, it was truth. His love was a glorious empty tomb.

Next to my son’s grave is a heart shaped stone, with a young woman buried beneath. On the stone is inscribed:

Do not stand by my grave and cry

I am not here, I did not die

I live with the risen Lord.

I love that, in fact it’s why I buried my son next to her, so I could read that as I stood looking at my son’s grave, trying to absorb the truth, that he was gone. Yes, he died and is no longer here, but he lives with the risen Lord. And out of the dust and disappointment of our lives, our failures, the Lord lives. He breathes life into death. He unwraps His children from the grave clothes of “Anxiety/ Depression”. He is Love eternal, unfailing, unchanging.

I’m going to make a Valentine’s Day pie for my Valentine, and tell my husband the same thing I tell him everyday – that I love him. He’s probably in the card aisle at CVS, like right now, grumbling that all the “good” cards are gone. Tomorrow, we will be a day older, and the country will be filled with half-eaten boxes of chocolates, mostly cream –filled. But no matter what you’re facing, Jesus has been there too. And He’s calling you to Him, “Come.” Come to a love that is unshakeable, unmovable.

The Apostle Paul, who lived long before Valentine, knew this love beyond what we can imagine; in prison, through shipwreck and beatings and being left for dead. It was a love he eventually gave his very life for, because he knew that true love is more than just a feeling, a poem or even a treasure chest of jewels. He said this:

 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Now I know what I’ll say to the girls in jail tonight. That Love is here, with us right now. And nothing, not even prison bars, can keep Him from us. I know they will really love that. It may be the happiest Valentines Day ever!



I counted – there’s 12!