Several years ago, I walked in off the street into what I thought was a little florist boutique. It was Valentine’s week, the week that is one of the busiest on a florist’s yearly calendar. I just wanted to volunteer and be amongst it all. Of course, they were very happy to have my help.
At the time, I can remember that the experience made me giggle. As Valentine’s Day landed on a Saturday, the week proceeding was crazy with orders of flowers. The Friday before was particularly busy. I was working at the back of the store just doing odd jobs, receiving and sorting flowers and keeping the girls stocked with whatever they needed. They were putting together bouquets left, right and centre. High with laughter from the lack of energy and long hours, they banded together to process and produce the orders that came flying past their workbenches.
What made me giggle is that as the day went on, the walk-in customers increased: mostly male and of all shapes, sizes, ages and occupations. They had come in to buy flowers for their girl – whoever she was. It was so amusing. Some would stroll in confidently and know exactly what they wanted; they placed their order and then strolled out again with their bunch of newly purchased flowers to woo the girl in their life. Some would spend ridiculous amounts of money, while others almost fell over when they heard the price for a single rose on that day.
Then there were my favourites – those that came in so awkwardly. They would stand at the counter and say nothing. They were embarrassed and obviously way out of their comfort zone. The girls up front of the store would have to gently and patiently walk these guys through it all, as they fumbled through the process of what to order. They too left with their purchase of flowers to give to their girl.
I loved it. I watched on as for one day on our calendar year, love is celebrated – by all types. It just made me realise how much we want to be loved and we want to show love. Love can be so good. But I also knew that for many it would be empty, it would be lonely, it would be shallow, and that there would be many broken hearts on this day.
The original Valentine was a saint remembered for his imprisonment for performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry – the Roman Emperor Claudius II supposedly forbade this in order to grow his army, believing that married men did not make good soldiers. This same Valentine sent a letter to the daughter of the judge who later condemned him, signing it “your Valentine”. Today it has become a worldwide occasion in which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers, as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart. Every country has its own version of a day of love celebrated.
I know it can be tacky to make any connection of a commercial and shallow Day to the love God has. But I will ignore this and do so anyway because when I read about love shown by one human to another, even right throughout history, I cannot help but direct my thoughts to God. Our love needs cannot be satisfied by another human. We fail to be all that someone else needs by way of love. But in God, is all the love we ever need. A key is not needed as an invitation to unlock this Giver’s heart, there is already an open invitation, an encouragement and a desire from Love Himself to come back into the intimacy from where we were created.
And yet, God knew too, that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18, NIV), and so a companion, a friend, a lover was created to make good, what was not good: the loneliness that comes from being alone. Together, united, equal, and intimate, these two first found their heart, soul and mind needs
This is the love that we were designed and created to live within. We have found ourselves so far away from this love. Love – the God of Love, is the Valentine we seek. He is and will be all that we need. And from out of His love, any human love we seek will be as the first couple had – a gift to each other.