Happy Valentine’s Day!
Today it struck me that this friendly holiday greeting holds almost as much tension and uncertainty as the old “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” controversy.
Truthfully, I have never cared much for Valentine’s Day. It’s always seemed like this holiday exists for the sole purpose of shaming single people. If we are presently happily coupled, we are (one assumes) happily coupled every day, and free to celebrate that on a daily basis. Even now that I am no longer among the ranks of the single, this holiday feels unnecessary. My significant other cooks dinner for me almost every night, and frequently gives me flowers or chocolates just because it’s Tuesday or Wednesday. I’m not one to create elaborate “Happy Valentine’s Day to My Boyfriend” posts on social media, because I have always felt that one’s feelings about private relationships are meant to be private. And to amplify my romantic expectations beyond what I get every day feels redundant and silly.
But a casual remark from a friend who dropped by the other day has opened a window to me on a new way to think about Valentine’s Day. We were talking about the Bible, of all things. “The Bible is really just a love story,” he said.
Wow. He’s right. And I’m amazed that I never thought deeply of that before.
Because I must admit, I have always been a sucker for a good love story. You would think that as a divorced person, I would be appropriately cynical about love stories, but I still can’t resist their timeless allure. Their plots are so predictable and formulaic, yet always wonderful. The beginning, light and optimistic, yet with a quiet touch of longing. The meet-cute and all the fun that follows. The tragic misunderstanding. The separation. The grand gesture. The happy ending.
Of course, the grand gesture is always the best part of all. It’s the part where our heroine discovers that the hero has secretly loved her all the time. The moment when Colin Firth’s character buys Bridget Jones a new diary so they can start all over with a blank page. The moment when Elizabeth Bennet discovers that Mr. Darcy secretly saved her family’s honor at great cost to himself, even though he appeared to dislike them all. The moment when Captain von Trapp tells Maria there isn’t going to be any Baroness and that he has loved Maria ever since she sat on that silly pinecone.
All misunderstanding cleared away, and our hero and heroine are free to live happily ever after. It gives me chills every time. And if I’m honest, I’ve probably gotten myself into many situations where I shouldn’t have been because I was chasing grand gestures from my own idea of a Mr. Darcy or a Captain von Trapp. (Spoiler alert: these characters are fictional and do not exist in real life.)
But in fact, all these imaginary love stories are just pale shadows of the very real love story presented in the Bible, the story of God loving each one of us, and pursuing us with sacrificial love, undaunted by painful misunderstandings and separations. And Bridget Jones’ new diary or the Bennet family’s renewed honor are nothing in comparison to the sacrifice that God made for His beloved people by dying on the cross for them. That is the ultimate grand gesture. It is a grand gesture that puts all other grand gestures, real or fictional, to shame.
And the best part about this love story is that it isn’t finished. Each one of us exists suspended in that magical, breathless space in between the grand gesture and the happy ending. And whether or not we get that happy ending depends on our own individual decision. Will we reject our devoted lover? Or will we joyfully throw our arms around Him in recognition of the love He has so dramatically revealed to us…and then live happily ever after?
The best thing about this love story is that you can wholeheartedly celebrate it whether you are single, happily married, unhappily married, widowed, divorced, or exist in the complicated spaces on the edges of any of these stages. You are still a major participant in this very real and touching love story. And the ending, to some degree, depends on you.
This love story puts all others to shame. It is the only one big enough to overflow our hearts and spill out onto our social media statuses. It is the one great love that makes all other love possible. Without it, there is nothing to celebrate, on Valentine’s Day or any other day. With it, every day from New Year’s to Boxing Day is equally worthy of celebration.
So once again I’ll say it: Happy Valentine’s Day. And Happy Every Day. May you be ready to embrace your own love story, wherever you may find it.