One of my most vivid memories of Valentine's Day goes all the way back to the 5th grade and this horribly wicked thing I did to a little boy named Robert. He had filled my red and white tissue paper covered box with valentines asking me to be his girlfriend. He gave me the mushiest variety that said "Be Mine" and "I love you" and not just the generic ones you are forced to give your classmates like "You're Super!" It was clear he was into me, and he had gone above and beyond to make his 11 year-old affections known.
When I saw him in the hallway, I winked and gave him a thumbs up, which is apparently the sign of defining the relationship in the 5th grade. In doing so, I agreed to be his girlfriend.
The day after Valentine's Day, I saw him walking a girl named Janelle, who was only the most beautiful girl in the whole school. I was both humiliated and infuriated that he had already moved on from his adoration of me. (I later found out he was told to walk with her somewhere by his teacher, but details schmetails).
I proceeded to rip up every single valentine he had given to me and when I found him I asked him to open his hands because I had something to give him. In dramatic fashion, I poured the torn up remnants of valentines into his tiny boyish hands and declared that "it was over" tossing my pony-tail violently behind me. I can still remember the look of shock and sadness that filled his face.
I've been haunted by that memory my entire life. Seriously, what a bitchy thing to do. I've always been sorry and wished I could find him to apologize for being so rotten. Hopefully, Robert has recovered from the trauma I unleashed on him and doesn't equate a day like today with his heart being ripped into shreds. Clearly, I have spent sufficient time feeling badly for it.
Since this scene in the 5th grade, Valentine's Day has been a mixed emotion of hope and disappointment.
There was the carnation torture of my middle school years where friends or "secret admirers" could send you carnations. And let's just say, I never received many. And one from a "secret admirer" turned out to be a very cruel joke. Oh middle school, I do not miss thee.
There was a "Kiss Me" conversation heart given to me from a boy at church I was convinced I was in love with. I never really knew if he did or didn't like me, and though there was eventually a kiss, it was just the one. The only thing I have to show for that whole non-relationship is a 20 year old conversation candy heart and 15 love letters that I never had the guts to give him.
High school was the place where I watched everyone else receive flowers and chocolates and balloons as I stood on the sidelines watching and feeling sorry for myself. But at least, I wasn't receiving carnations from non-existent admirers.
My dad and Robin were married on Valentine's Day my senior year of high school, and I remember feeling the weight of what that meant for me. It was the official ending and beginning of something and at the time, I didn't know how to name my ambivalence. Today they are celebrating 15 years of marriage and celebrating accordingly in the Bahamas. I love them both and I have fought hard for the kind of love that I love them with - I think they know that.
My boyfriend-thing in college (we had a hard time defining what exactly we were or were not) got me yellow daisies while all of my friends got red roses from their appropriately defined and labeled boyfriends. Granted, he was looking for sunflowers, which are my most favorite flower on the planet, and yellow daisies were close I suppose. But I felt like I was second rate, and the color and the very flower was a reminder of that. Valentine's night, my friends and their boyfriends danced in the parking lot to Martina McBride's "Valentine" song (while so incredibly cheesy, was still quite sweet and romantic). I so badly wanted to be dancing with my guy, but there we sat, my boyfriend-thing and I, at a picnic table not dancing.
My heart broke because I knew he didn't love me enough to want to dance with me in the parking lot. Deep down, I knew even then that I was worth a cheesy, cliche dance in the parking lot to a cheesy, cliche song. Every girl is. Every single one.
I did find my Valentine eventually in the form of a tall, rugged, quiet man that won my heart many years ago now. While we haven't danced in the parking lot to a love song yet, I know that he would if I wanted him to, because he does love me that much.
Over the years I've learned that love, the really real kind, is so much more than carnations or daisies or even the reddest of roses. It's even more than that longed-for romantic dance in a parking lot to a cheesy love song. And love, especially on the days that is is hard to do, is more gut-wrenching than a pile of torn up valentines. Oh, it is so, so much more.
As I'm sure with many, this particular day of celebrating love and creating romance, is both loved and hated. Valentine's Day has a way of putting a spotlight on our hearts of the places we are craving for more of love. Whether it be a relationship we are hoping for, a desire for more in the one we are in, the want for children we don't have, the strain of family relationships, or disappointment in friendships, Valentine's Day seems to remind us of where we were created to love and to be loved.
Today, my simple hope is that you remember you are loved. Fiercely, wildly, tenderly, fully, deeply and completely by the One who made you and breathed life into your soul. He doesn't show up with roses, but He is the greatest lover my heart has ever known. May you know that too, especially today.
Happy Valentine's Day friends.