Post-Valentine’s Day Thoughts From A Guest Blogger!

17 Feb

During a conversation about Valentine’s Day, I joked with my neighbor and friend, Michael Gilley, that he had a lot of thoughts on the matter. I told him to write a blog about it. So here it is, Michael’s thoughts on Valentine’s Day:

The V-Day Invasion

A few days ago we celebrated Valentine’s Day and I have just one question: Why do we suffer this holiday year after year?

Who likes Valentine’s Day? Really? Who voted for it? I don’t know one person who really enjoys or looks forward to Valentine’s Day. As I prepared to write this post I thought about all the ways I disliked the holiday and all the ways my friends have been frustrated by it. Then, I began thinking about all the ways that married and dating couples also dislike the holiday. I finally arrived at a new realization: I don’t need to sell my annoyance to anyone.

Cupid got shot! (Melissa's caption)

Everyone already hates the day and everything associated with it. (I heard those little heart candies are actually made from chalk that ossifies in the heart slowly killing you from the inside out.) So why do we allow Valentine’s Day to live? I say we should all rise up as one and slay it!

Valentine’s Day is a day set aside for the remembrance of Saint Valentine. The problem is, nobody knows a thing about the guy! We’re not even sure he ever existed. There’s so little known about ol’ Valentine that the Catholic Church actually removed his feast day from the Christian calendar! On top of this, there wasn’t a romantic twist to his day until the poet Chaucer came along in the fourteenth century, and that’s not that surprising because he spun a romantic twist on everything to win French speakers over to English. It was only two hundred years ago that card producers began commercially selling “mechanical valentines” to men to give to their sweethearts. The rest is, as they say, history.

It cannot be denied that Valentine’s Day, like other holidays, is a commercial juggernaut. There are others who have written off Valentine’s Day simply for this reason. I on the other hand am not as bothered by this. What bothers me about the holiday is the constant, powerful reinforcing of the same story that strangles relationships and wounds individuals all in the name of love.

Valentine’s Day & Faith

 What do we disciples do when it comes to Valentine’s Day, or romantic relationships in general?

I suggest that we begin thinking of our relationships with one another as a story. What kind of story are we embracing? What story are we retelling? Is it the story of the Gospel or is it another kind of story? Does it grow from self-sacrificial love and mutual support or does it feed off of compulsion and expectancy? Does it begin with acceptance of the other as they truly are or does it start off with a messianic version of those we trust to save us?

People get hurt when romantic relationships are co-opted as a salvation from loneliness. (Loneliness, by the way, usually results from complacency more than isolation but that’s for another time and place.) The fact that the pain of divorce directly affects over half of the Western population ought to make this clear.

When we are consistently told the story of how we find our true worthiness and purpose in another person (be it a knight in shining armor or a damsel in distress) we come to rely on our grandiose fantasies of what that person can do for me. Should we be surprised when we wake up disillusioned, hurt, crushed, and with ossified hearts?

It’s usual to hear 1 Corinthians 13 read at a wedding. Unfortunately, that text doesn’t only apply to the love expressed between a husband and a wife. It’s much greater than that. It’s much wider than that. It ought to ask us how our relationships foster love for others.

Does it inspire in others patience, kindness, an end to envy, bragging, and arrogance? Does it seek the good of others and encourage timely forgiveness? Does it live to find out and bring injustices to light? Does it delight in truth telling? Does it tell a story of all things settled in God who sits on the mighty throne?

I must confess, the story I often hear (and too often hear from the church) is one that inspires in me anxiety, a sense of entitlement, victimizing the self. I want to think of myself and my needs. I want to forgive past hurts when I feel ready to release the grudge. I hear the need to think about my own plights before the injustice felt by others. I want to hide for fear that the other might find out who I truly am and end the relationship. I hear in the background the ticking clock of time and death.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day of torture. Perhaps it can be a day to redeem, a day when we all — singles and couples — can come together to pray. We should pray for help in modeling the kind of relationships in love that is seen in Christ. We should pray that we will continue to resist the urge to place our hopes and worthiness in anyone other than God. We should pray for healing for those who have been hurt in the past. We should pray for forgiveness and hope to move on. But above all, we should pray for love.

Michael Gilley hails from Missouri but now lives in South Pasadena, CA.  He holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He likes coffee, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Anabaptists,  and playing Cluno, a game that we made up with our friends.  There’s a lot more to him than this hastily put together bio mentions, but I wanted to publish his blog so it is what it is.

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One Response to “Post-Valentine’s Day Thoughts From A Guest Blogger!”

  1. Emily February 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Cluno sounds like a mix of Clue (best. game. EVAR!) and Uno (the game I always win). If so, I want to play! For those of your readers lucky enough to live in the same town as you, I think a Cluno night is in order. Your public demands it!

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