Today is Valentine’s Day, and it is a day we celebrate modern love and romance. Depending on your life, you will either love or hate this holiday. If you are romantically involved, or have prospects for involvement, then this holiday will likely be one of amorous anticipation.

On the other hand, there are some who hate this holiday. They feel alone, unloved, unlovable, and there are many reasons why that is. The loneliest times in my life were caused by divorce, deployments, and even drunkenness. I feel for those who feel unloved because there is no romance in their lives. Part of being human is longing for companionship, or even the adoration of another person. It completes us.

When we feel we don’t have that, our hearts become hardened. When that happens it is hard to appreciate the connections we do have. We could be surrounded by friends and family, but still feel alone.

Love & Loss

This day is particularly hard for my wife. Her mother passed away on Valentine’s Day eight years ago, and it did have an impact on how we approached the day from then on.

Before her mother’s passing, we would spend a lot of time leading up to Valentine’s Day preparing for what gifts we would get for each other. When we didn’t have children, we would spend weekends at bed-and-breakfasts along the Georgia coast, or in Savannah at the Avia Hotel, which was an expensive and luxurious stay for us.

As kids came along, every three years it seemed, our outings became less frequent, but we would still make plans to outdo each other in our giving for the holiday. For us, it wasn’t about sex – that happened a lot regardless of the holiday. It was about the love that we had in high school, a love we lost after graduation, and a love we regained after life rolled us over once or twice. It was about that enduring love that still persists today.

After her mother died, Stephanie didn’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day for a few years. While I was unsure how to proceed, I respected her wishes and we didn’t make a big to-do about the day as we had in previous years. We embraced the day as one to celebrate her mother. With that, we chose to focus on the many children we had (and would have) and give them gifts.

Love & Death

A few years ago, when my wife was having a difficult year, one in which she really missed her mother, I told her the story of St. Valentine, after whom this holiday was named. My intentions, I suppose, were to show her that the day wasn’t always about the things we’ve made it in today’s society.

The symbols most associated with this day are hearts, little Cupid angels, flowers, chocolates, and numerous other things. In our youth, we would make little cards for everyone in our class, or just purchase them from the store; then, on that special day, we would hand them out. From what I hear, school children still do the same. That’s consumerism, I suppose. The story I read in my youth was quite different.

The holiday is attributed to Saint Valentine of Rome, known also by his Latin name, Valentinus. He was executed sometime between 269-273 AD (depending on your sources) by the emperor Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested for evangelizing, which was a repeated occurrence for Valentinus. Emperor Claudius took a liking to him initially; but after rejecting Valentine’s attempts to evangelize him, Claudius gave him the choice of renouncing his faith or being executed. He would not renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.

St. Valentine’s execution happened outside of the Flaminian Gate of Rome, where he was beaten with clubs, and then ultimately beheaded when the pugilation had not killed him.

”Is that supposed to cheer me up?”

No, I suppose it was not the happiest of stories. But, I believe that much of it is true. I believe there was a man named Valentine who held a prominent position within the Church. I believe that he was arrested for evangelism. I also believe that he was executed for his faith in Christ. It’s certainly not a happy story, but it is one experienced by people all over the world. Even to this day.

Oil & Water

I’ve experienced the long-burning and all-consuming love of another, what some would call true love. I’ve survived the intense and passionate inferno of lust, emerging relatively unscathed. I have in the past surrendered to the hatred that so easily flows from the hearts of men. I’ve hated other people for no eternally acceptable reason. I have been, and still am, hated by some for my faith.

I am no theologian, but I am human and I understand, in some small degree, the power of our emotions. I was always fascinated by what happens when we mix oil and water. These two substances can exist in the same container, but they do not mix. In much the same way, love (water) and hatred (oil) exist within us, and they do not mix either.

It is impossible to fully embrace love and still harbor hatred against another. In the Bible, Matthew chapter five, Jesus equates hatred for someone to be the same as murder. Do you reject the Bible? Then try this:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate. – Socrates

Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater. – George Washington Carver

Love and hate have always been a paradox. We struggle to live and cope with both. We long for love, especially on day’s like today; but we will so easily slide into hatred. Usually out of fear. Or change. Or upbringing. Some wish for love, but harbor hatred. And yet, those consumed with hate, are still capable of loving others. It boggles the mind.

Have you ever started a grease fire? What happens when you try to put it out with water? I find the reaction pretty amazing, even if dangerous. Water added to hot oil starts a fire that is hard to put out. In much the same way, a burning hatred, when met with love, will often cause a similar reaction. For within a soul consumed by hatred, love cannot survive.

Have you ever added oil to boiling water? (I do this when I cook pasta because it keeps the noodles from sticking together.) It does not react the same way, even if the substances are the same. When there’s more water (love) than oil (hate), the reaction is not violent or destructive. A soul consumed by love will often absorb the hatred of others by responding with more love.

I think that’s what happens with those who are killed for holding on to their faith. Many of these martyrs could have lived had they renounced their faith. Through their faith, they found Love. It seems that once they found Love, they refused to abandon it. Even to the point of death.

Choose Love, Not Just Sex

As a young man, I focused more on the physical aspect of a relationship than the emotional depths of love. I pursued my passions with little regard for the feelings of others. It should, then, be sufficiently deduced that I burned many bridges, lost many friendships, and, as I mentioned before, experienced divorce as a result of my intentions. I am responsible for my past. No one else.

In light of the day we presently observe, I implore you to love. Do not be consumed with hatred and the passions that follow. If anything, realize that every person you meet needs more love and less hatred. No one gets to choose when they’re born, who their parents are, or their ethnicity. So why is the hatred that permeates and perverts this world based on these things?

The most important choice we do have is just this: do we choose to love or hate? I have experienced both, and I reject hatred. It’s not worth your life. Love, however, is worth dying for.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Afterthought

I am aware that the word “pugilation” is not one that is recognized in my Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. However, I like it and it says exactly what I wish to say, in exactly the way I wish to say it. If it does end up in the dictionary down the road, then remember this post!