Well, single friends, it has arrived: February, the month of love and romance. My condolences. But seriously, no matter what state your love life (or lack thereof) may be in, this could be a fabulous month for you! In fact, it might just be your best month ever.
How? As with so many things in life, it's all about attitude. As I see it, when it comes to the season of hearts and flowers, you have several options:
1. Celebrate V-Day with your significant other
2. Desperately attempt to find a significant other before the big day arrives
3. Go into mourning over the lack of a significant other
4. Schedule an alternative activity to draw attention away from the fact you don't have a significant other
5. Wonder what all the fuss is about
6. Decide to look at the season in a whole new way
I can't help you with number one and do not recommend number two—it rarely goes well. Number three may be unavoidable for brief periods, but don't wallow or you're likely to turn bitter and/or desperate. (Neither is attractive.) Number four is not a bad option; I myself have enjoyed chocolate & chick flick evenings and other similar Valentine's alternatives. Number five? If you're still reading this, it probably doesn't apply to you.
Which leaves us with option six: finding a new perspective. Easier said than done, you say? No worries, I'm here to help.
First, a brief review of Valentine's Day: though its origins are shrouded in the mists of time, it may (or may not) honor a Roman priest who either (a) continued to perform weddings even after they were outlawed or (b) while imprisoned, fell in love with his jailor's daughter and sent her a note signed "from your Valentine." Either way, you'll note the focus is not so much on Valentine himself as what he did for others. This is a clue.
What can we learn from this? Much of modern-day Valentine's celebrations focuses on receiving gifts, flowers, etc., or celebrating in a way that basically revolves around you and your beloved, i.e. fancy dinner, dancing, whatever. Please understand, there is nothing wrong with fine dining or diamonds or chocolate or all the above rolled into one enchanted evening. But perhaps we need to shift our focus from "what's in it for me"—or, for the unattached, "what am I missing out on?"—to "what can I do for someone else?" In other words…
Suck it up, sunshine, it's not about you.
More about that in a minute. But first, think about this: this is the season of love, right? Who has ever been loved more than you? Nobody. Seriously, nobody. Think about it: Jesus left his life of unimaginable privilege and power to go on a long, hard, exhausting, irritating, painful journey that ended in torture and death—and he did it for YOU. Because he did not want to go through eternity without you by his side. That, my friends, is love. And it's yours; it always has been. As Max Lucado says, "You have never lived an unloved moment." And you never will.
Now then, let's get back to what one of my co-workers calls "Single Awareness Day" (gotta love that acronym). There are a lot of people out there for whom this is indeed a "sad" day. What are you going to do about it? Yes, you. Jesus said, "You must love each other as I have loved you" (John 13). We've already discussed how much he loves you, which is a considerable amount. And no matter how you look at it, "must" doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room. What better place to start than the holiday that's all about love?
All very good in theory, but what about practical application? Well, that's up to you, but here are a few suggestions:
First, pray about it. God knows where you are and who you know; He's got a pretty good idea of where you can be most effective. It only makes sense to ask him what to do.
Second, look around. Someone in your circle needs to know they have not been forgotten. Someone needs to know they matter. Maybe an older person in your church whose spouse has died. Maybe a friend who's stuck in step three (above). Maybe the parking garage attendant you see every day, the receptionist at your office, or your maiden aunt. Whoever they are, they're out there. Ask God to help you see them.
Then, decide on the appropriate expression of love. I'm not talking about a declaration of passion, just a reminder that "whoever" is a person of value who is precious in God's eyes. Something as simple as a card, a cookie, or a single flower can go a long way. But put some thought into it, OK? Try to make it a personal statement (about them, not you—it's not about you, remember?). It will mean more that way.
You don't have to limit yourself to one person, either. I was once in a church where one of the only guys in our singles group took all the girls (there were eight or ten of us, as I recall) out to dinner on February 14. It was a sweet gesture that made everyone feel good.
A word of warning: You do want to take care that your actions are not misinterpreted. Sometimes anonymous is the way to go. You can always sign the card "Love, Jesus" or something along that line.
Of course, if you're acting behind the scenes, you probably won't get to enjoy the (hopefully positive) reaction and gratitude of the recipient. So what's in it for you? The awesome knowledge that you were used by God. The joy of giving with no expectations. The delicious feeling that comes from making someone happy. That's better than chocolate any day.
Caution: this feeling is addictive and may result in you looking for ways to bless people all year, not just one day. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.
**This column first published on February 11, 2010.