I’ve always been single, but I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. How can you not? Lots of pink and chocolate – that’s all a girl needs. At least this girl. For now.
In college my girlfriends and I always did something delightful – my freshman year we blasted Frank Sinatra as we made a pasta dinner. We ate in a circle on the apartment floor because we couldn’t all fit around the table. A dance party ensued…eventually the cops came and yadda yadda. Another year we bought individual pints of Ben&Jerry’s ice cream and snuck them into a movie theater. We laughed loudly and made fun of Diane Keaton…we almost got kicked out and yadda yadda.
The last few years, however, Valentine’s Day has ceased to be as delightful. Two years ago I had just started working part-time at a gym and a restaurant. I worked back-to-back shifts on Valentine’s Day; I think I worked 13 hours or something. I remember coming home late at night and throwing myself on the living room floor. I tore off my shoes and complained about how hard my life was to my roommates and this boy they were trying to hook me up with. It’s so awkward when your friends try to hook you up. Too much pressure. They told him I was cool…but they forgot to tell him that sometimes I collapse on the floor and cry. Needless to say I didn’t impress him much.
And then last year. Blahhh. I was in turmoil over a boy I actually liked. As I’ve mentioned before, the day ended with me bawling by those foul-smelling African squatty potties. Not my greatest moment.
But I still love Valentine’s Day – I always will. I’ll admit, I secretly hoped that this year’s Valentine’s Day would redeem last year’s. I’m pleased to say it did.
This year I spent Valentine’s Day in sunny Nicaragua with eight other single girls. The day began with pancakes and pastries and plastic roses. We decorated the table with candy and lovey-dovey phrases. We blasted the song “How He Loves Us” and ate until our stomachs were sick from too much sugar.
During the day we went about our business, serving among the community.
At night we talked about love, about how the opposite of love is hate, anger, unforgiveness. We listened to a sermon by a woman (hollerrrr.) The sermon was titled “How to Develop a Forgiving Heart.” When it ended we wrote down the names of the men who have hurt us – sexual abusers, manipulative boyfriends, absent fathers, uncles and brothers who betrayed us, boys who have been flippant with our hearts.
We wrote their names down along with every way they have wronged us. Then we wrote in big, bold letters LOVE KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONG overtop our list. We folded our paper up and wrote, “we love because he first loved us.” And then we threw our papers into fire. We watched as the papers burned and disintegrated into nothing; we prayed that our bitterness would too.
We sat around the bonfire, toasting marshmallows on branches and laughing about how much sugar we had eaten that day. Eventually the mood became quiet. We listened to worship music, our gazes fixed on the dancing fire. The clouds rolled quickly across the sky, over the moon and stars, and I thought about how beautiful it all was. I remembered last Valentine’s Day and the tears I shed; I thought about this Valentine’s Day and the laughter I couldn’t control.
Our God is a redeemer – he buys back what was taken from us, he renews what was lost, he repairs that which was broken. Not only that – he makes it even better than it was before.
Eventually the fire faded, the music ceased to be and I found myself walking to my room, sugar caked on my teeth and dirt stained on my feet.
It was a good day.