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It Is the Thought that Counts

I hope that by this time next week you will have your Valentine’s Day plans figured out. Preparation is an important part of a successful celebration. Valentine’s Day is different from other days on which we give gifts – more than any other time, it really is the “the thought that counts”.

How are you planning to show your love to those important to you this year? It might be wise to spend less time looking for that perfect gift and more time looking for the words to express your love. While half will give candy and more than a third flowers, I wonder how many valentines would gladly trade these for some heartfelt words. Remember too, Valentine’s Day can be a time to express our love to people other than our sweethearts – we can also express our love to our parents and our adult children as well.

Why should we care? After all, Valentine’s Day is not a spiritual holiday. True, but the origins of Valentine’s Day goes back to the 3rd century and the life of St. Valentine. Legend says that St. Valentine performed Christian marriages prohibited by Emperor Claudius II. When Valentine was caught, he was imprisoned, tortured and killed. His story is a testimony of how love puts the needs of others ahead of ourselves.

O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”, is possibly one of the best stories about selfless love. The story tells how a man sells his prized pocket watch to buy his wife hair combs to adorn her beautiful long hair. At the same time, she sells her hair to buy a chain for his pocket watch. Selflessness is the truest mark of love.

Selflessness encapsulates the gospel. Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 what love looks like saying, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Love calls us to care for another more than ourselves. Pure love allows us to love others for who they are rather than for what they do; when we love like this we have learned what God’s love is like.

Genesis 2 tells us that after God creates Adam he says that it is not good for man to be alone. Our need for companionship is both biologically and emotionally. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Old Testament observes that Adam’s need was for “one like, or as himself, standing opposite to or before him.” In other words, Adam’s need was for something greater than the companionship the animals offered, he needed one that would be like him in every way, but at the same time his opposite.

Biologically we understand this in the way that males and females are designed for procreation but there is something even deeper implied. Humankind was unique in that God says that they were created in His image. Our failure to understand scripture causes us to limit this to mean having a body of flesh, but we know it must mean something more because he created them male and female. The Bible tells us that to be made in His image means to be eternal beings with an innate need for relationships.

This brings us back to the value of celebrating Valentine’s Day and not just Valentine’s Day but birthdays and anniversaries as well. In these, we not only celebrate our relationships, but also give God thanks for them. God created us with the ability to love and it is therefore good and appropriate for us to learn to find ways to tell others that we love them. Our expression does not need to be extravagant, in fact, it seems that a simple heartfelt expression is often more meaningful than the over the top gift. What mother does not cherish the handmade card their child makes more than any box of chocolates!

While it is impossible for a gift to express fully what another means to us, it is nonetheless important for us to discover ways to express this complicated emotion that we call love. Maybe chocolate and flowers are the best way to show your love, just don’t forget to add a message that comes from your heart. I am confident that it will be appreciated! Remember, more than anything, we long to know that we are loved. Paul reminds us how it is our love that counts because it is love that lasts, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

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