The first time I recall truly hating Valentine’s Day was when I was a sophomore in college. I had been cheated on by two different boyfriends in a year’s time, and I felt the need to vent that anger to anyone who would listen! I remember rallying with my girlfriends to decorate black t-shirts sponge painted in white, pink, and red with messages like “My Valentine is Ben & Jerry’s,” “Kiss this Cupid,” or my personal favorite on my t-shirt reading “Happy Satan Day!” I donned my black t-shirt with its anti-love message for the world to see because on the inside, my heart had been broken one time too many. Each year as this day would come around, my heart grew darker and bleaker for everything this one day stood for. I let it steal my joy year after year, and I spread that darkness to those around me all in the name of heartbreak.
Then, Valentine’s Day 2017 happened, and my whole view of this day changed. It wasn’t one single occurrence but the combination of several different pieces that took away the darkness from my eyes and put back on the heart-shaped glasses filled with joy, love, and contentment. I had three of my students put together a Valentine’s Day gift for me, spent the evening fellowshipping with my Bible study Life Group, and was able to enjoy time with my mom and dad. Finally after 13 years of miserable Valentine’s Days, I realized that this day is so much more than a day devoted to hearts, roses, candy, and romantic love.
This day is a celebration of ALL the parts that love has to offer us: the Greeks referred to them as Eros, Phileo, and Apage love. I had become so obsessed with the fact that I had no one to love in a romantic way (Eros) that I had completely missed out on appreciating the friendship love (Phileo) and Godly love (Agape) that I had in my life. I have amazing family members, students, colleagues, and friends who have filled my love tank to the max, so why was I so hung up on this sadness that was but one small piece of the love puzzle? I became so concerned with this one definition of love that it cheapened all the rest. On top of that, I had completely left out the most important love in my life, and that is the love of an amazing God who just wants to spend time with me and help me to get to know his love better. His love is what teaches me how to love the other two ways, and his love will never let me down like those Eros relationships of my past.
So this year, I choose to put back on my heart-shaped glasses. I choose to tell my students, friends, and family I love them. I choose to pray for my future husband and our future Valentine’s Days we’ll eventually have together. But most importantly, I choose to worship my Jesus with every bit of my being and thank him for his all-consuming and sufficient love that is all I need!
I choose joy. I choose love!
– Erin Whitaker