Valentine’s Day: Giving and Receiving

I read a Facebook post of a young married woman this morning. She was going to a movie by herself, because her husband didn’t make all their plans for Valentine’s Day–he just asked her, “what should we do?”–essentially leaving it up to both of them, or just him, to make the plans.

She went on about how he needed to do it. If he couldn’t, then they just weren’t going to celebrate. She would take time for herself.

It made me sad. Really. Our culture has these commercial-based holidays that set us up to have certain expectations. What we should expect others to do for us. How those in our life should demonstrate their love to us on that one specific day.

But, culture-based expectations that we thrust on others more often than not just lead to disappointment and other dysfunctional outcomes. If having a romantic Valentine’s Day really matters to me, then I make the plan or prepare a romantic dinner for two at home. If it matters to my husband, then he does what he wants to demonstrate his love for me. I can’t thrust Valentine’s Day on him as an obligation. Who wants love based on obligation anyway? That isn’t love; it is action made to look like love. It is like one of those lovely chocolate candies that you bite into and find a gooey filling that you just have to spit out.

Culture-based expectations emerge at Christmas, too. Santa, shopping, spending. The expectation at Christmas has grown to this massive frenzy of shopping and buying and giving just because it is expected. Millions spent on gifts that will be forgotten or tossed in the Goodwill box in a matter of months.

Our church, Imago Dei Community, started a movement called Advent Conspiracy to help re-focus Christmas on the expectation of the birth of Christ and making Christmas about relationships. It has been beautifully transforming for our family. It has made Christmas about spending time with each other, rather than spending time in the mall in search of the “perfect” gift for each other.

So, for Valentine’s Day, I suggest: have no expectations. Rather, if you feel like showing someone you love him or her, find a special way to do that. But don’t sit, waiting expectantly, for the chocolates or the flowers or the perfect night out. Love may not show up in that culturally defined way.

But the bottom line is, we need to show our love for others, not expect others to show their love for us in a certain way. Christ reminds us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I don’t recall him reminding us to expect “small tasty or Hallmark-branded tokens of love from others.”–unless there is some chapter I missed.

So for the young woman on Facebook: I send prayers for you and your husband today. That you will find a way to talk about what is on your heart. If it is something more than culturally imposed expectations, then I pray that you will share your feelings with each other and listen, really listen to each other. That will show true love. If it is just culturally imposed expectations, I pray that you will instead just express your love in a way that is meaningful to you. . . and just maybe, you will find you receive more in return than what you gave or ever could have expected.

What will my day look like? Well, it will mostly include work — grading papers.
And who knows, I may just have a little something up my sleeve for the man I have loved for the past 29 years.

Does he have something up his sleeve? If he does, I’ll be surprised. I know–I am certain–he loves me unequivocally. He shows me that daily, in little ways–he makes dinner almost every night and has it ready when I walk in the door. He greets me and helps me put my bundle of work-related stuff away. He goes to the grocery store when I’m just too tired to even think about it — even though he dislikes shopping more than I do. He tells me he loves me too often to count, warms up my coffee when I let it sit a little too long, and sends me random text messages when I least expect them.

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Posted on February 14, 2010, in Christianity. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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