Valentine’s Day can be a mixed bag can’t it?
My Valentine’s Day started off with slamming doors. Not the best way to handle my feelings of frustration, I know. Good thing the kids were at school already so they didn’t see their Momma’s not so mature way of handling her emotions.
Feelings of being taken for granted and not being seen had me sad… and fuming. Then add a tantruming 2 year old who decided the shirt you both agreed on for the day didn’t work for her anymore and so she got herself tangled up in it trying to get it off with tears streaming down her face, while you are trying to get out the door so you are not late for the next thing, had me thinking and cursing under my breath, “What a sh*tty start to Valentines Day!”
Valentine’s Day can bring up so much in us can’t it?! Expectations. Fears. Longings. It is a day meant to celebrate love, but in so many ways it can remind us of all the ways we feel unloved.
Single. Married. With kids. You can find yourself on Valentine’s Day wondering if anyone truly loves you and sees you. It can be a day we greet with anxiety rather than with eager expectation.
As I thought about all the fears and longing that this day can bring up in us, in me, my thoughts wandered to a talk I gave last week from this gift of a book in the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah. I’ve been plowing my way through Isaiah with a beautiful bunch of women from my church and local community, and last week I was up to teach from Isaiah chapters 41-43.
Nestled within the middle of the book of Isaiah, in chapter 43, is perhaps the greatest Valentine announcement ever given.
And it is spoken in the midst of verses that encourage us not to fear…
1 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
6 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
FEAR NOT! Twice God tells us to fear not. And why do we have nothing to fear? Why does God give the assurance twice to not fear?
The reason lies in the very heart of this Isaiah 43:1-7 passage, at the center of all these promises of the ways God will care, protect, provide, and be with us, is this personal confession from the heart of God to our heart…
Because you are precious in my sight, and honored and I love you. Isaiah 43:4
This verse was the ground of Israel’s confidence in that day, and it is the ground of our confidence on Valentine’s Day and every other day… we are loved by God.
And friends, this isn’t just any love. The last phrase “I love you” is profound… the verb translated as love is usually used to speak of the love a husband has for his wife… it is with that kind of personal, intimate, endearing, enamored love that God loves us.
This alone is our reason for hope. This alone is the foundation upon which our life can be built upon, as we hold the pain and disappointments and longings we encounter in this life. The reason Israel, and we, can hope for a future beyond the heartache we face is this remarkable promise… because friends, you are precious in God’s sight. You are honored. God says to you with the emotion and intention of the most intimate of lovers… I love you.
People who are loved like that have absolutely nothing to fear…
This passage in Isaiah gives us the assurance on Valentine’s Day and on every other day of the year that there is a God who reaches out in love to his people and says to us: “Do no fear, for I am with you. You are precious, You are honored. You are loved.”
If we could just sink into this truth, that we are deeply, madly loved by God, I believe everything would change. The way I give and receive love from others. The way I handle the rejection I feel in this life. The way in which I look to other things for belonging, affirmation and worth. How I handle a sh*itty Valentine’s Day. There probably would be no slammed doors. 😉
If I could just open myself up to and receive the depth of God’s love for me, not in a general “for God so loved the world” kind of way, but in a very personal, intimate way, hearing the Creator of the universe, the God and Lord of all, say to me, “Janise, You are precious. You are honored. I love you” with the emotion and passion of the most love-struck lovers, I think everything would change.
I have a prayer I’ve printed out and have set before me in my quiet time place… a prayer that is only six words, but is perhaps the most profound prayer I can pray. It simply says this:
Open my heart to your love.
Open my heart to your love. I believe it is in the continual opening and deepening of our understanding of God’s love for us that we find ourselves living the truth that we have nothing to fear. It is from this place of knowing that we are absolutely, deeply and completely loved by God that quiet trust can spring, a confident belief that the heartache and brokenness and longing in our lives are being held by a God who longs to anchor us in his infinite, faithful love and good purpose for our lives.
Perhaps the love we really need on Valentine’s day isn’t the love and affection we may long for from a spouse or a significant other. Maybe it isn’t the love or recognition we might hope for from our kids or our friends, though it is gift to receive love from these places.
The love we truly need is the love that only God can give us. The love from one who sees us fully, who knows us at the depths of ourselves and still says to you and to me:
You are precious and honored in my sight and I love you.
And so I am reminded on this Valentine’s Day, which didn’t start off so great for me and as I write I’m wondering how it will continue to unfold, perhaps my deepest need and the answer to my greatest longing is contained in the words of this prayer… Open my heart to your love.
There is only one love that does not disappoint and that will hold us in our disappointment with other’s who do not love us as we hope to be loved.
So God, today, Open my heart to your love. Amen.
Feel free to download and print this here