Yesterday was Valentine's Day, a day of love for some, a day of annoyance for others. This annual holiday is one I have been aware of since I can remember, although as I have gotten older, it has most certainly evolved. My favorite Valentine's memories are those of my mother and I making a mad dash to Target to pick up Rugrats Valentine's cards and candy for all twenty-three of the 'friends' that I 'loved' in my elementary school classes. In my pre-teen years, I would go to school with butterflies in my stomach, hoping to receive at least one carnation that day. High School brought about more specific love interests resulting in teddy bears and flowers at my doorstep. College love interests resulted in more explicit Valentine's celebrations, shall we say.
As I sat in Chipotle yesterday with one of my best friends, having an impromptu 'Galentine's Day', I couldn't help but think about previous years. This year marked my fifth Valentine's Day being single. Some of those years were marked by heart break, others new beginnings and this year, a deep peace. As my friend and I discussed past relationships, current events and life in general, I walked away thinking about all the things I have learned about love while being single. So, I thought I would share.
1. Love is Choice, Not a Feeling.
Many of us have heard or read the verse from 1 Corinthians about love. In the event that you haven't it says, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." As I meditated on this description of love, it was so clear that the manifestation of these things lie in the power of choice. What particularly stood out to me in this verse were the words; "trust, hope, persevere" and the indication that these things are always done. In love we may not always feel like trusting so we must make the decision to do so, in love. We may feel hopeless therefore we have to choose to sustain our hope, rejoicing in what we know to be true. Finally, for the sake of who and what we love, we must choose to go forward, even when it's tough. Feelings are fleeting but love carries on.
2. Love is Not Toxic
I know many people who have used the above to justify staying in a dead or toxic relationship. One of those people was me. I used this scripture to justify my desire for a man who was not patient with me, who was so easily angered, he didn't trust, protect or honor me. Because my relationship looked just like the relationships of those around me, I believed that what I was experiencing was normal. I thought it was normal to have sex when I didn't really want to, I thought it was normal for your boyfriend to constantly go through your phone and piece together your text messages. All men cheat right? That's a normal thing. For me, the list of toxicity that I confused with normalcy goes on. Needless to say, that relationship ended but the pain that I experienced after our separation doesn't compare to the peace that I have now. It is a non-negotiable peace that I will fight for going forward and am willing to remove anyone or anything that disturbs it. It may sound harsh, but toxicity is like poison and enough of it will lead to death and since love is about choices, going forward I will remember to love myself, and choose life.
3. Love is Limitless, You can Extend it to Anyone
For me, these past four years of being single have catapulted me into deep place of surrender. That first year of singleness, I would often drift into sleep, my pillows stained with tears. I would cry out to God, asking Him to ease the nearly physical pain. And it was in the darkness of my bedroom in my parent's basement that He met and comforted me, making His strength known in my weakness. My encounters there with Him were what helped me to get out of bed those mornings. As the years of singleness have gone by, my relationships with my friends and family have grown stronger. I have learned to love others with the same passion and intention that I loved 'significant' others in the past.I now consider everyone significant. I have learned that love isn't just for romantic partners but for all who have partnered with me in life. In John 15:9, Jesus says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." As I have grown in a God who is love, a God who is the living water, He has filled my cup and it always runs over, making it so that I can mirror the days of the aforementioned elementary Valentine's cards and love not just those who I have relationships with but every person I encounter.
I hope you too will learn to go forth in love, not just on Valentine's Day but always.