Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, but it has little to do with candlelit dinners and Hallmark cards. This special occasion honors a hero and pastor named St. Valentine. The history of this holiday has been buried while the meaning of love itself all but obscured by cultural cliches and relativism. A day set aside for romance and devotion to lovers or spouses is a gift! But, we shouldn’t lose the significance of this holiday.
Whether married or single, the real tragedy emerges when others turn inwardly and focus on what they could gain or what they should have in a relationship. Self-focus pervades our culture at an intoxicating level. This twisted view of love becomes more about “me” and what “I can get,” instead of what I can give and pour into someone else for the sole benefit of that person. As a side note, it’s hard to love when you’re leading a life on empty, but that’s a topic for another time.
Today, many young women turn inwardly to focus on the attention they feel that they are not receiving. This is especially sad and becomes a harmful mindset. While enjoying time out with friends is all good, I find that many women take this day to self-soothe and self-focus. ‘All the single ladies’ end up gathering together to celebrate, not simply Valentine’s Day, but Galentine’s Day! Many girls spend the day reflecting on memories of past relationships as they enjoy Galentine’s dinners and snuggle up with their box of Godiva chocolates to re-watch the not so epic movie, The Notebook.
Saint Valentine lived under the oppressive reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, who banned marriages between young couples. Emperor Claudius sought to create a merciless army that was unafraid of death. In order to to accomplish this, he released an edict that prevented military men from marrying and having connection to family and children. Claudius viewed marriage and family as an enemy to his military agenda. However, Saint Valentine defied the emperor and married young couples in secret. Because of this, Valentine would pay the ultimate price. He would be imprisoned and brutally executed because he defied this edict of Rome.
It’s clear that real love is exemplified through a selfless heroism of denying self while sacrificing for the good of others. After all, love is best defined as the fulfillment of a command: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love others as you love yourself.” Valentine reflected this.
Today becomes a tragedy in that we forget our history and the epic stories left to us. We jump into buying flowers and chocolates — cheap forms of expressing love. And yet, how do we spend the rest of the year investing into others? Our culture is quick to say “I love you,” but the word carries little weight. As author and speaker Ravi Zacharias reminds us, “Somehow, in the romantic world of music and theater, we have made love to be what it is not. We have so mixed love with beauty and charm and sensuality and contact that we have robbed it of its higher call of cherishing and nurturing.”
We use the word love for everything and everyone synonymously: “I love my friend, but I also love God and blueberry cheesecake.” Thus, in its overuse there is abuse, because there are no clear lines of demarcation and the word “love” loses its value.
This much is clear: Love is not just a saying. It’s an action.
Love is the selfless giving of oneself — it is total surrender and self-sacrifice. You hear older couples say, “Marriage is hard,” and that’s because loving others well is not always easy. It is the pursuit of another’s heart and interests even at the expense of your own. This is what St. Valentine demonstrated. And today, on February 14th, we celebrate the legacy he left us. Let’s not allow for the cheap, commercialization of a powerful celebration of faith, selfless love, and heroism.
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!
Written by Jenn Beard