February is already upon us. My children are suddenly experts on groundhogs, and are counting down to Valentine’s day. Children like Valentine’s Day. Probably in the same way they enjoy all holidays where they receive candy.
Growing up, Valentine’s Day was one of my very favorite holidays, and not just because of the candy. My mom did something unique, something different with the holiday.
Every Valentine’s Day evening, our table would be beautifully set with my parent’s wedding china and our fancy water glasses. The flowers which my dad had sent to my sister, mom, and me would serve as the centerpiece. There were often balloons tied to each chair, and a modest sprinkling of heart-shaped confetti glittered across the table. On our plates, there would be a small present, nothing extravagant: a book, a shirt, some new lip gloss, a toy train engine for my brother. And then we would eat, and sometimes we would even go around the table and tell each other nice things.
The whole evening was a bit corny, a little over the top, and completely wonderful. I think about those dinners every year as February rolls around. I think about my family and I think about love.
This year, my thoughts have been comparing my idea of love versus God’s actual love.
My idea of love can be demanding and look for fault in its object. God’s love is forgiving. My idea of love requires that I show up with something to give in a relationship. God gave everything for sinners. God’s love doesn’t make sense to me, and quite frankly, it feels a little uncomfortable.
Whenever I take a personality test, like the Enneagram, a common theme emerges. Usually, my results will highlight my preference to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. And lately, that characteristic has me feeling a little empty-handed, like I am reaching deep into my reserves of strength and patience, coming up with little to nothing each time. It makes me feel weak and inadequate, and before long, my very self begins to feel the emptiness too.
Now, I can hypothesize the reason why this has happened until I’m blue in the face. I have three small children and am currently feeling the little flutters of baby #4. I am sleep deprived. My prayer life looks more like a well-worn use of the words, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me” and less like the eloquent poetry I sometimes wish it was. We have moved three times in the last few years. All of this has left me feeling a little tired.
My guess is you’ve been there too—a little worn out, a whole lot overwhelmed, feeling like you have nothing to give to anybody, let alone God.
And maybe like me, you’ve tried to fix it. You schedule all the right things and try to pray all the right stuff. But the thing is that God isn’t asking me to show up with hands overflowing. The point of the Gospel is that I have entirely empty hands ready to be filled by His love, His joy, His peace. Because the truth is that even though I’m weak and inadequate, Christ is not. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians:
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Because the real truth is this: I don’t want to give anybody my love or my joy or my peace or my hope; those things are human and fallible. I want my hands to be filled with His love, His joy, His peace, His hope, because they can not fail or disappoint.
Every year on Valentine’s Day, I would show up at our dining room table with nothing in my hands. It’s the same way I approach communion each week. Empty-handed, inadequate, and yet, lovable. Not because of anything I do. Lovable simply because He loves me.
And something about that makes me realize I’m not as empty as I thought.
Spend some extra time with your Savior this Valentine’s Day with these colorable Bible verse bookmarks.