Apparently it’s Valentines Day. Shops are (and have been for a while) full of advertising, love hearts made of chocolate/flowers/paper/cards/other stuff, and florists are doing a roaring trade. How could anyone miss it?
When I was a child, I had no idea that Valentines Day was actually a thing. I remember my first reference to it – I was reading a Bobbsey Twins book, and one of them (I think) didn’t get a Valentine from someone they wanted to, or perhaps got one from someone they didn’t want to get one from. I had no idea what a Valentine was. I had no idea what Valentines Day was. You see, it seriously wasn’t something that was a feature of 1970s Australia.
I was probably about nine or ten years old at the time. Puzzled by the references, I eventually looked up an encyclopaedia at the library to find out what this strange thing was all about. Of course, there’s the whole Saint’s Day thing that some churches celebrate, but the modern tradition of cards, flowers and the celebration of ‘romantic love’ that goes along with all of that, bears little resemblance to the actual Saint’s Day stuff.
Now, as I look at a social media feed full of ‘Look what my gorgeous hunky hubby/boyfriend/hot girlfriend (insert significant other here) gave me’ and a sense of dismay rolls over me.
I mean, this is one day. In the whole year. And there’s so much pressure out there to demonstrate how much in love you are with your significant other, in the form of balloons/chocolates/flowers/whatevers that you can’t go anywhere or do anything without it slapping you in the face.
And then I think about people – what if they don’t have a significant other? Or what if they’ve just lost them? Or perhaps they’re the only one not to receive something in their friendship group?
For someone whose relationship is over, or their loved one has passed away – how much does this kind of flaunting and advertising hurt? If someone has never managed to have a significant other – how much does this hurt?
For people who are in relationships, why does this one day, full of manufactured, advertised and commercialised holding up of romantic love hold such significance? And by that, I mean more significance than actually demonstrating how much they love their other each and every day?
I’m fortunate to be the child of two people who are still in love, and still married, nearly fifty-five years later. To the best of my knowledge, they’ve never celebrated Valentines Day. But what I have seen, is the love and commitment that they’ve given each other on a daily basis for nearly fifty-five years. And on that commitment is a true relationship built.
My husband reminded me this morning (by text, since he’s currently on his way home from a windscreen replacement job that had to take place 100km away) that on the 14th of February 1990, we were in a restaurant eating a lovely dinner, and sipping on a bottle of $30 champagne that neither of us liked. And watching with bemusement the wait staff hover around the table of bigwigs next to us. We were on our honeymoon.
Now, twenty-nine years later, I couldn’t care less about chocolates, flowers or champagne, but I do care enormously for the man I married. You see, the love I’ve seen my parents demonstrate, he has demonstrated constantly over the last twenty-nine years.
That kind of love is about coping in the difficult times. It’s about the moments of grief, of stress, of hope, of celebrating our children, of praying for them, and of having the joy of friendship with the one you also love.
True love isn’t cards, champagne, chocolates or balloons on the fourteenth of February. True love isn’t declarations of undying love on social media, accompanied by the trophy image. In fact, some studies suggest that the more insecure a relationship is, the more likely it is to have gushing social media posts.
True love is there when it counts. It’s the smile across the room. It’s the clasped hands in a taxi. It’s the coffee delivered to work, or the meal waiting at home. It’s the cup of tea in the morning, or fresh sheets on the bed.
At the same time, it’s the driving to and from hospital, the shared grief when friends and family struggle. It’s the shared living.
True love is also there for friends. It’s not romantic, but it’s constant. It’s the thing that goes beyond friendship, and sometimes beyond words.
Rather than conform on a manufactured occasion, I’d like to think that real love goes way beyond that. It endures.
Here’s one of my favourite parts of the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13. No matter where your faith, or lack thereof stands, I think this really says it all.
‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’