The Most Important Commandments
Living love is about giving love. According to Jesus, the two most important commandments are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This isn’t about receiving at all.
For many men and women, the month of February has been associated with Valentine’s Day and the expression through flowers, candy, and cards of one’s love for another. The history of this day begins with the death of several martyrs named Valentine back in 269 AD. Throughout the centuries, it has morphed into a day of professing love. Some would say it is a “Hallmark Day” created for the commercialization of products. Whatever your beliefs, it seems to be a day that is filled with expectations. If we give the right gifts or say the right thing, maybe our loved one will believe he/she is really loved.
Not All Roses and Sunshine
For those who journey with us at Faithful & True, trust and love have been broken. Valentine’s Day can be painful to think about and is often a struggle to decide how to navigate through. For those reeling from infidelity, it is yet to be seen whether a marriage can survive adversity and you can feel this love again. Valentine’s Day can represent even more ways you do not feel chosen or loved because of lack of gifts or words that you were hoping to receive. It is a hard day for couples working through difficult times. So many little things, or lack of them, represent the love and choosing you want.
I think it can also be true that this is a difficult day for many if you carry unexpressed expectations for someone else to show you love in a specific way. “I didn’t even get a card.” “We usually share a special dinner, and we didn’t even talk about it.” “There was no acknowledgement at all that today was Valentine’s Day.” And then the beliefs follow: “He/she doesn’t really love me anymore.” It is a dangerous, slippery slope of giving up hope when you live with unspoken expectations.
Living a Life of Love
Love is confusing, or as some in our office would say, a “sticky wicket.” We often judge how lovable we are by what someone else gives us. It is measured by what we receive. The problem is this conflicts with God’s plan to “live a life of love” (2 John 1:6). Living love is about giving love. The two commandments that matter most to God, according to what Jesus told us, are first, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). This is not about receiving at all.
If we focus on these commandments of loving this Valentine’s Day, I believe it can be a good day for anyone even if you are in the midst of a trial. You can begin by thanking God for all the ways He has loved you well. Start your day with thanksgiving and give Him your time to do so. Next, send loving thoughts or gifts, if you like, to those who you love—or want to love. It can be as simple as “I’m thinking of you today.”
Then you can think about how you might love yourself on this day.
Do you love flowers? Then buy yourself some.
Do you need some relaxing time off from work? Then plan for a day to explore something new.
Do you need loving people around you? Then invite them to join you.
Do something to love yourself.
Less is More
You may need to take a break from celebrating this day with someone who has hurt you. That is an understandable need. You will feel more authentic if you decide to be intentional about that decision. You can simply say, “This is a hard day for me to participate in right now,” or “I hope one day I will feel ready to send you a card or a gift, but I can’t do that this year.” Have a voice to speak what is true for you today. You practice loving yourself when you do so.
My twin sister and I were born on Valentine’s Day. These were two special experiences that led to a lot of attention growing up. I remember Barb and I receiving a birthday cake at half-time of a high school basketball game because people remembered our birthday! It was a big deal back then. I got used to receiving, receiving, receiving on Valentine’s Day. While receiving is lovely, I find that as I have grown older, I experience much greater joy when I am giving on this day. I feel more in tune with God’s design of love when I focus on loving Him, others, and loving myself well.
Loving Those You Don’t Love
“If you love (only) those who love you, what reward will you get?” – Matthew 5:46.
As humans, it is easy to give love only when we get love. God is encouraging us to work at this differently. Just because you send a loving thought to someone or do something caring does not mean that everything is perfect. Know that this day can be messy or incomplete and you can still be working on loving God, others, and yourself. It is a day for you to celebrate your spiritual growth as you practice loving as Christ loved.
“Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). And love yourself as God loves you, too.