Valentines Day Menu: Fire, Passion, and Love
I come before you now with a humble disclaimer. I have borrowed a chocolate box full of historical goodness from Wikipedia and other sources for the writing of this article. Give credit where credit is due. Read on, be inspired, burn with fire, be convinced by passion, and compelled by love.
For days now I have been racking my brain trying to think of what Valentine’s Day is to me. What does it mean? What does it amount to? Uhhhhhm, nothing…? Classically, Valentine’s Day is a day where people everywhere show their love materialistically through the giving of flowers, candy, and unnecessary stuffed animals. (I mean really, unless you are anywhere between 5 and 13 years old…) If I gave you my honest and somewhat sarcastic answer, this would be it: Greeting-card-holiday merch will be exchanged followed by a dinner. It’s the greeting card markets second favorite shindig. Next to Christmas, Valentine’s Day is the second most profitable card-mailing holiday of the year. Read for yourself.
How greeting cards came to the surface: “In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.”
The oldest known valentine in existence: “Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.” (Both Quotes Via: history.com)
So what does Valentine’s Day mean to me? First things first: I am single, still pretty young in age, and I’ve never dated. As you can probably guess Valentine’s Day isn’t that big of a deal for me. Yet, if we are going to ride this love themed wave that is Valentine’s Day maybe you would appreciate if I shared with you just a little bit about myself. I’m a very loving person. I am fascinated by people. Success for me and my life is learning to love people well. At the end of my life, I want to have given people a reason to be able to wholeheartedly proclaim that the most memorable thing about me was how I loved God, and them…well. I want the echo of my life to ring in the halls of eternity and say, “She loved well.” I believe one of my life messages is love – to love God and others. Love is a journey, and I am all in.
As much as I love people as a whole, there is one in particular that I am fond of. The secret is out. If you don’t know, now you do. I am deeply and passionately in love with a King. The King! He takes care of me. He provides for me. He shares His heart with me. He is passionate. My love for people is inspired by His. The rhythm of His heart fuels me and cheers me on. He is fun and funny! He sings over me. We are traveling the Nations together. We go on adventures. I knew I had found my place in life when I first met Him. You should see His eyes up close – they burn with fire. This is a passionate and fiery heartthrob kind of love. He’s the sweetest and most loving person I’ve known. He even opens doors for me! I will spend the rest of my life with Him. He is my King. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, my Savior, Jesus.
Even with my fondness for love, I’m not super ecstatic about this Valentine’s Day shindig. While contemplating Valentine’s Day I had this “random nudging” (aka: the Holy Spirit) to find out the history of this popular greeting card holiday. In my heart I knew that Valentine’s Day was a bit more than just a calendar holiday, but I had never taken the time to research it. Now that I have, I’ve found a whole new meaning for this day. It’s not a meaning that steps on the world’s popular purpose of the date set for celebrating our loved ones but one that accompanies it.
When I Googled how Valentine’s Day began, I found more then I bargained for. I assumed that I would find a nice little love story, some heroic tale of a prince saving his future princess and this magical Cinderella love story that was so sweet the world wanted to remember it forever, etc., etc. What I did learn from Google, Wikipedia, and History.com wasn’t too far off from my assumption. It wasn’t far off but it was way better.
Here is Saint Valentine’s story: Another popular hagiography describes Saint Valentine as the former Bishop of Terni, a city in southern Umbria, in what is now central Italy. While under house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus (the Roman pronunciation of his name) was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do anything he asked. Valentinus laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. Immediately humbled, the judge asked Valentinus what he should do. Valentinus replied that all of the idols around the judge’s house should be broken; the judge should fast for three days, and then undergo baptism. The judge obeyed and as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family and forty others were baptized. Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to serve Jesus and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius himself. Claudius took a liking to him until Valentinus tried to lead Claudius to Jesus, whereupon Claudius refused and condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentinus refused and Claudius’ command was executed outside the Flaminian Gate February 14, 269. Story borrowed via: wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Valentine
Saint Valentine was, as far as we know with little recollection of his powerful and ancient legacy, a man who stood for Christ. Valentine proclaimed the gospel. He set a standard. He healed the sick. He risked it all for the One he loved. Valentine laid down his life for the One who gave him the gift of life in the first place. When Valentine stood before the judge, knowing what power this man had and the devastating outcome that a wrong answer or action could provoke, he stood on the promises of God. Valentine spoke out about of His wonder-working power, showing the judge that the God of the Bible still heals today. He is the same yesterday, today, and FOREVER. (Hebrew 13:8)
Probably one of the greatest parts of this testimony is Valentinus’s obedience and willingness. He didn’t wait for a sign. He simply knew God’s will. Through a relationship with the Holy Spirit and studying His Word, he knew that God is the only god who can heal. Valentinus didn’t just know that God can heal, he actually prayed for the judge’s daughter to receive her sight back. Unlike a good portion of the church today, Valentinus didn’t wait to pray for the judge’s daughter until he got home and alone with God. He took his opportunity to prove God’s power right then and there, even in the midst of having his faith openly tested. He prayed with faith and the daughter was healed. Is it just me, or do you get excited when you hear about things like this? God is so good.
I see love all over this story. I see a love for Christ that moved a man to rid himself of the fear of failure, the fear of man’s rejection, and even fear of death or imprisonment. I see a father’s heart that longs for his precious daughter to be healed and to see as she was destined too. I see a love that is willing to risk it all, give its life and be as faithful as it claims to be with its mouth. I see a passion for the lost, for the blind, for souls and for hearts to turn to the one true God. I see a very sweet love story. “Meanwhile, the saints stand passionately patient, keeping God’s commands, staying faithful to Jesus.” Revelation 14:12 (MSG).
As the story goes, immediately the judge was humbled by this merciful and powerful act of God. The judge asked Valentine what he should do. Valentinus replied to him with boldness and a confidence that helped build a bridge between this man and the Savior. The judge did exactly as Valentine advised and even set free all the Christian inmates under his personal authority. C’mon Jesus! The judge and his family plus forty others became baptized. This is incredible! What a beautiful sight this is of Gods wonder-working power. Not only does God meet Valentine when he steps out in faith but God heals the judges daughter, moves the judge into holiness by having him destroy all his idols, brings freedom to imprisoned and persecuted saints, saves the judge, his family and forty other people – one glorious miracle after another. I call that revival.
Once again Valentinus was put on trial for his bold love for Christ. Valentinus refused to deny Christ and continued to stand for His faith. He was later arrested again for continuing to serve Jesus. This time they sent him to the “prefect of Rome”, to the emperor Claudius himself. They take him to the head honcho. What I find funny is that Claudius actually liked Valentine. It wasn’t until Valentinus tried to lead Claudius to Jesus, which Claudius refused and “condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded.” Valentinus refused to deny Christ and continued to stand for His faith. Once again this man risked everything for his passion, the Love of his life. On February 14, 269 A.D. Saint Valentine was executed for his belief in Christ Jesus. Valentinus was martyred for his passion. February 14, a day which our culture celebrates as a lovey-dovey hallmark and greeting card holiday, was originally the day where once again a child of God stood for his faith to simply bow before His King. On this day we exchange flowers and candy when hundreds of years ago Saint Valentine was exchanging His life for the glory of Christ.
I have no real objections to the way we celebrate “Valentine’s Day” in our twenty-first century world. I do, however, believe that as a people we have not seen the legacy behind this celebration. Love others – yes. Lay down your life, yet again, for the ones you love – I don’t think we fully comprehend the roll this plays in our holiday called Valentine’s. For me personally Valentine represents this pictorial invitation, not to die at the first opportunity of conflict or warfare but to lie down and live every day of our lives surrendered. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13 NKJV.
I am all for laying down our lives to follow Christ and being willing to stand for Him regardless of what opposition there is to come even if that could result in death. What I am not okay with it this silly and trendy mindset that I’ve seen become intertwined with young people in the church today where it’s now “cool” to be killed for Christ. I’ve seen this with some lately where people think and make statements such as, “Just call me a martyr!” Are you kidding me? Please note that I am not implying that this is every one and everywhere. It isn’t – thank God. Yet I have seen this with some in our area to the point where young ministers are labeling themselves as “future martyrs”. I understand the heart behind it that says I’m willing to die for Christ because I love Him enough to stand for Him no matter what. Amen. If we are truly going to stand for Christ until the end we must not forget that what He came to bring to the world was life, along with much more.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16, 18 This passage, and the similar in John 15:13, isn’t about death. This is about LIFE and life abundant. When we do what God has called us to, what He has asked of us, we gain life and as He hopes for us all – life more abundant. (John 10:10) This passage is about giving everything inside of you to the purpose of Jesus just as He did for us. God wants you to live a long prosperous, fruitful and enjoyable life walking out His will upon the Earth. It’s for us to live our lives intentionally dedicated and set apart for His glory. While I’m alive I get to live for Him and when I die I get to live with Him. Either way we win. When it came to death at the measure of the cross even Jesus was like, “Father if we could find another way to do this that would be great! Although I like that idea, Your will is My greatest desire. Your will is what I’ve committed to bring here on Earth. I will do whatever it takes. Not my will but Your will be done.” (This is clearly my paraphrase.)
In Matthew 26:39 is where I see Jesus lay His life down for us all once again. Jesus spent His life laying it down for us and on that cross is where He died. Not just in the sacrifice of the cross do I see Jesus lay down His life for me, but in countless other times throughout scripture where He makes a decision to follow through with His faith. “Nevertheless, not My will but Your will be done,” as Jesus words it. That has “lain down” written all over it. Even though I would rather not die just yet, or in that way, I made a covenant with You Lord to follow You, serve You, love You and stand for Your name here on Earth. I lay down my life in order to honor Yours and fulfill Your will. I believe this was also in the heart of Valentine. It wasn’t about death or dying and becoming a martyr but living for Christ and laying down his life for Him.
This isn’t the worlds typically intriguing steamy love story, no doubt. From a Kingdom perspective it’s full of love, passion and a consistent fire. Valentine’s Day should be a day that shifts our focus and fuels the flame for the remaining 364 days of the year – reminding us to keep on loving. Keep on loving God and others. Find that love of Christ that stirs you so that you would actually give your life for His cause. What a legacy Valentine and others like him have established for us. Walking in love with years of inheritance that have been paid for at a high cost of surrender, faith, and pure risk is our Valentine’s Day gift from these revivalists and pioneers of the gospel.
Enjoy your Valentine’s Day celebrations and buy as many cards, flowers, candies, teddy bears, and meals as you would like. This one thing I ask, as you’re showering your loved ones in gifts of tangible love, is that you remember why we are here. Remember what this day is all about. I pray that Valentine’s Day would once again be the picture of what it looks like to represent Christ well as Valentine himself did back in 269. February 14th, Valentine’s Day was set in place to remember a man who loved God profoundly and laid his life down for the purest of loves. As we continue on with our present day festivities may we remember the heroic stance of the ones who have gone before us and ultimately the One we stand for.
I pray that on this Valentine’s Day you would gain an increase of Heavenly perspective to fuel the fire burning in your soul for all of your days. I pray that your menu would be filled with countless options for a lifestyle of deep passion and fiery love. Available to us all is a love that breaks down barriers, is faithful to its faithful, captures hearts, and catches the attention of the King. Hold fast to a love that keeps you going not one that leaves you dry. Happy Saint Valentine’s Day everyone! The day to remember God’s grace and love, to be thankful for the privilege it is to surrender all, willingly and intentionally. May Jesus continue to give us the grace and passionate love that we need to live fully for Him in the Earth and proclaim the good news of His salvation to the world! May your greatest adventure in life be to love God and love others well.
Grace and LOVE,
P.S. I have found a new meaning for Valentine’s Day – it is Jesus – my love and my life.
“Love does not dominate; it cultivates.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” Zora Neale Hurston
“I have learned not to worry about love; but to honor its coming with all my heart.” Alice Walker