Friday, February 1, 2013

A different view on Valentine's Day

Because He First Loved Me (and You) 
A Guest Post written by Daniel Alexander Granderson

When it comes to the subject of love, I sometimes wonder which holds more influence over our societal beliefs and behaviors: church, state, or Saint Valentine’s Day. Based on the seemingly ubiquitous decorative presence of red, white, and pink that has become the uniform of store shelves since December 26, you’ll have to forgive me for believing that for at least a few weeks during the first months of the year the marketing geniuses that annually endeavor to convince the masses that February 14 is the most romantic day of the year are our society’s most formidable puppet masters. 

Don’t get me wrong, I neither dislike Valentine’s Day nor do I believe that it is exclusively a so-called “Hallmark holiday.” I am, after all, a self-admitted hopeless—and hopeful—romantic. Thus I’ve dutifully drunk the Valentine’s Day Kool-Aid a time or twenty over the years. 

In general, I’m opposed to any and all forms of groupthink or mob mentality. Yet there’s just something about a collective, nationwide display of affection that really makes one want to be part of the in-crowd. The fatal flaw that dooms Valentine’s Day, however, is the reality that no matter how widespread the message of romance is, there are always those of us who are seemingly excluded from the festivities on an annual basis. We all desire to be desired. We all long to be loved. And disappointment is often born at the nexus where longings and the reality of one’s forlorn circumstances collide. Finding peace rather than disappointment is an art.

Love is perhaps the most complex and profound attribute ever imparted by our Creator to His creations. English poet Alexander Pope famously wrote the words, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” I dare counter Pope by contending that to love is both human and divine—much like Jesus who came to earth to die for our sins out of love. 

When we think about it, the Bible is the greatest love letter ever written. It is the most heartfelt poetry ever conceived. It is the sweetest song ever to spring forth from adoring lips. So profound is the Bible’s message of love that it’s revelations are commonly divided into four categories: storge, philia, eros, and agape. 

In John 13:34-35, Jesus commands that His disciples love each other as Christ loved each of them. And throughout the rest of the Bible we see examples of every definition of love: parents for their children (storge), brothers and sisters for their siblings (storge), friends for friends (philia), strangers for their fellow strangers (philia). But the love that we most commonly celebrate on Valentine’s Day (eros) is that which lead Jacob to toil for 14 years merely for the chance to marry a woman (Rachel) he spotted at a well. It’s the nigh mythic “love at first sight” phenomenon we all have likely dreamed of a time or two during our lives. 

As great as Jacob’s eros love was for Rachel, it is nothing compared to the unwavering, unshakable, undying, and sacrificial agape love that flows from the heart of God. Better understanding the profound nature of God’s love for us through a relationship with Him is the first step in conquering feelings of inadequacy and loneliness that can consume the unbetrothed on Valentine’s Day and during their daily day-to-day existence. 

One of the biggest mistakes we as human often make is that we seek validation for our existence based on how other human beings perceive us. If we are loved by a man or woman that we desire, than we declare ourselves to be worthy. In reality, this is an attempt to place a human being in a position that only God should occupy. Our happiness is contingent on our relationship with God not on each other. The people in our lives can only enhance the happiness that must inevitably already exist within ourselves least we fall victim to frequent disappointment at the hands of flesh and blood “saviors” who are as fallible and sinful as we ourselves are. The healthiest relationships are between two complete and confident people whose happiness is rooted in God, not in each other. 

It’s difficult to holdfast to the mindset of being “unworthy” or the “unwanted” knowing that we are so loved by God that He sent His son to die for us. One does not sacrifice one’s physical or spiritual self for a person who is not deemed worthy of such sacrifice. Thus how ungodly it is of us to not love ourselves knowing that God first loved us and showed us the depth of our significance to Him through the suffering at Calvary? How can we dare to devalue that which God has declared priceless? 

The key to remember is that people come and go in our lives, but God is forever. Recently a friend of mine announced that her seven year relationship ended under a cloud of turmoil. After a brief period of obligatory mourning, she announced that she had decided to start dating herself. Rather than continue to wallow in the loss of the relationship, she opted to find ways to celebrate how special and remarkable a person she knew herself to be. In the process, she says that she discovered some things about herself and expressed great optimism for both her present situation and for the day when she feels she is ready to embark on a traditional dating relationship again. 

While my friend’s decision “date herself” may not work for everyone, I believe her primary agenda is universally applicable. It’s essential to know and appreciate ourselves as the people God made us to be so that when romance does find us—be it on Valentine’s Day or one of the other 360 plus days of the year—we will have a stronger foundation to build a budding relationship upon. 

Author bio: A native of Rockville, Maryland, Daniel Alexander Granderson turned his longtime love of reading into a passion for writing during his freshman year at Takoma Academy after joining the high school’s newspaper and yearbook staff. This passion only grew as Daniel went on to pursue a degree in journalism and writing at Washington Adventist University (WAU). In the years since his graduation from WAU in 2008, Daniel has worked as a market research analyst, blogger, and social media/communication specialist with market research publishing company Packaged Facts.

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