Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Some thoughts on childhood, romance and Valentine's Day

You make me smile again like a child of three ...

-- "Smile Again," performed by Manhattan Transfer

Valentine's Day is coming up on Sunday, as if you needed any reminder -- especially with all the adult-focused marketing for flowers, dinners and "intimate apparel" that happens this time of year. But, now that I think about it, I sometimes think that we miss the true significance of the feast day which, legend holds, marks the date of death of a real St. Valentine for whom the holiday is named.

If the reports I've read are to believed, that St. Valentine used to send notes of encouragement to children. That's it. How it got mixed up with romance and sex is a subject for another blog entry, as I think we've missed the point -- it's about feeling "special." Which everyone needs from time to time.

In the book "What's So Amazing About Grace?", Philip Yancey mentions that romance is the closest thing that many of us experience of grace, defined as "unmerited favor." If that sounds crazy, what's the first thing you think of when someone says that he/she has fallen in love with you? Embarrassment, perhaps, but also charmed because you know you had nothing to do with it -- you are being offered a gift.

Though I haven't dated a whole lot, for much of my life many younger women and girls have taken a shine to me. The first time it happened I was in the fifth grade, my first year attending a Christian academy; on the bus home a first-grade girl instantly became attached to me. I admittedly didn't handle it well at the time -- what 10-year-old would? -- but, for what it was worth and looking back, her affection was genuine. Yes, she may have had "daddy issues," but she was probably doing what she knew. And because I wasn't receiving that kind of warmth from anyone on my family, part of me secretly enjoyed the attention because it was something I really wasn't "supposed" to get. (Why that was and how that has affected me as a nearly-50-something adult is a subject for another entry.)

That gave me a clue as to what we should be celebrating -- it seems to me that there should be a certain amount of childlike innocence involved in this particular season. I mentioned in an earlier entry about the cynicism I detected in the book "Loves Me, Loves Me Not," whose subject is unrequited love; the author said upfront that she was choosing to remain single for fear of heartbreak. The thing is, offering love and wanting to connect is risky business, and dismissing it out-of-hand in an unkind manner is devastating even if you know the feelings will never be mutual.

And when you open yourself to such gifts, special things happen.

Twenty-five years ago at the end of a church retreat, one of the women in this particular fellowship with whom I had a troubled relationship pulled me aside and played "Three Blind Mice" for me on the piano. Now, on the surface that may sound silly; however, she wasn't a musician but knew I was.

I knew what she was doing -- offering me the best she had at the time, and given the situation it had the desired effect. Indeed, it was one of the few things I remember about that retreat, and I still get misty-eyed thinking about it.

Perhaps that's the real significance of Valentine's Day -- honoring those who are willing to give their hearts. And if you get one of those unsolicited gifts, accept it graciously -- it may be something you actually need.

1 comment:

Kim F said...

i liked your comment that Valentine's day is to make someone feel special. And To give your heart to someone is risky..but not to give it is sad..i've had my heart broken many many a times, first by my father which affected every relationship. when my pastor helped me and filled those shoes of my dad, i was secure in Jesus and that's all i need. thanks for your article; it was good.