Singlehood Isn’t a Box of Chocolates
- Tim Laitinen Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 18 Feb
If you’re single, when’s the best time to buy Valentines candy?
February 15, of course!
Right up until 11:59pm on Valentines Day, all the candy still holds some sort of romantic promise. But by midnight, if it hasn’t been purchased, there’s a sadly non-romantic reason why. Unless, of course, what your Valentine loves about you is your frugality. In which case, waiting until the day after Valentines to purchase their chocolate would be the appropriate thing to do!
For us singles, it can be easy to feel like Valentines chocolates on February 15. Discounted. Cut-rate. Less than full price. No longer commanding prime display space. After all, customers don’t like to see leftover candy.
And speaking of candy, do you remember those Valentines Day parties from elementary school?
The night before, one of your parents would have gone to your local five-and-dime and purchased a cellophane-wrapped carton of assorted cheesy Valentines cards for you to distribute; one to each of your classmates. Maybe your parents would have also purchased some of those boxes of little pastel-colored, heart-shaped mints. They featured trite, brief sayings like “Be Mine” stamped in red ink on each one (remember the red dye that the FDA determined was dangerous to our health?).
Then on the afternoon of Valentines Day, some parents would come in to help maintain the chaos, and you’d have a Valentines party. It would kind of be like a fruit-basket-turnover, with you and your classmates roaming around to everybody else’s desk, putting individual cards on each one, like busy little letter-carriers. And maybe a sweaty fistful of those heart-shaped mints. By the time it was over, everybody had a pile of cards on their desk, maybe mixed with some of those now-sticky mints.
Back then, we were told that such revelry was fun. Looking back on it today, however, it seems to have been some nefarious experiment in equal affection run amok, doesn’t it? After all, how many of us “loved” our classmates? How many of us even wanted to befriend them all? How many of your classmates looked for cards from specific special persons of interest, while letting ones from your least popular classmates fall unnoticed – or worse, intentionally – to the floor?
Let’s face it – our society, by and large, doesn’t do a very good job with genuine affection, does it? We grow up from those staged classroom Valentines parties to develop some fairly mean-spirited prejudices and cliques, not just as high schoolers or college students, but as adults, and even as church-goers. And how many of us single Christians end up getting shunted off to the sidelines, like February 15th Valentines chocolates, or those cheesy, juvenile cards with mass-market sentimentality that get left on our classroom floor?
So here we are, after another Valentines Day has come and gone, and many of us probably felt like we had little to celebrate – except, perhaps, the good junk food bargains we were able to get on February 15th.
We don’t want to feel like society has discarded us, but sometimes, doesn’t it seem like we’re really worth only half as much as people who have truly found love? Whatever passes for love these days, anyway?
Meanwhile, how many people who have a Valentine purchase him or her something incredibly expensive more in the hopes of being rewarded, rather than out of a purely altruistic romantic compulsion? And how jealous of them – and embarrassed for ourselves – might we get as the Valentines festivities unfold year after year? As all the married or “spoken-for” women in the office were getting their big bouquets and enormous teddy bears delivered to their desks on Valentines Day, were you hiding in the breakroom, trying to look preoccupied with the leftovers you brought for lunch?
Then there’s always the prima donna in the office who casts a severe glance over the gift being delivered to her desk, assessing it before taking possession of it, in case it doesn’t meet her demanding standards. “Well, he knows what’s good for him,” she deadpans ungratefully. And you wonder why people who don’t seem to deserve even token displays of affection appear to get so much of it anyway – from people who genuinely desire to experience true love.
The thing about Valentines Day is that so much of it is contrived, isn’t it? If you’re really in love, do you need a specific day to demonstrate your affections? How much of the pomp and expense of Valentines Day is to make up for a dearth of romance throughout the rest of the year?
It’s not even like we know where the holiday comes from. Some people say Valentines Day stems from a debauched Roman fertility festival called Lupercalia. Others claim it comes from several early Christian martyrs who all happened to be named Valentine. In 1382, Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet, penned a platitude about romantic love for King Richard II, which became one of the first widely distributed examples of what we would consider to be conventional romance in the Western world. By the early 19th Century, in England, paper Valentine cards began to be made by hand, and our modern Valentines Day was born.
For us believers in Christ who happen to be single and not romantically involved with anybody, some well-meaning friends may think they’re cheering us up with clichés about “Christ being our true love” and “God being the lover of our hearts.” Yet those ring distinctly hollow, don’t they? The romantic love we humans may or may not have for one another doesn’t really translate well when we’re talking about our Savior and Heavenly Father and their love for us. True, all of us believers together are the “Bride of Christ,” but his affections for us individually aren’t the same as a human husband has for his human wife. So when our married or engaged friends try and gloss over our singlehood with trite theology, there’s a reason why it doesn’t suffice.
Just like that candy you might purchase at half-price on February 15. Sure, the chocolate is still fresh, and it may taste good going down, but no candy – whether Valentines or otherwise – has genuine nutritional value. It doesn’t satisfy us, and wouldn’t even if we were blissfully married, and the Valentines chocolate had been given to us by our adoring spouse. They’re called “empty calories” for a reason. How odd that for romance, which our culture so highly prizes, a healthy salad isn’t the mark of affection, but a food group that can actually be bad for your health instead.
Okay, so maybe instead of the carrots and celery it seems like God has been feeding you lately, you’d like somebody to buy you one of those honkin’ big heart-shaped boxes of candy with an enormous velvet bow on it. But didn’t happen this year. Might your Heavenly Father be trying to convince you that he does indeed know the plans he has for you? You know: plans to give you hope, and not harm!
From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.
Publication date: February 18, 2014