I love Valentine’s Day. I know it’s kind of a stupid, manufactured holiday, but I can’t help myself. I love love.
I’ve had a handful of disappointing ones, though. I’ve spent plenty of them feeling sorry for myself, masochistically scrolling through friends’ and acquaintances’ IDA: internet displays of affection. You know, photos and mushy posts that make you want to cry and barf at the same time. Crarf!
I can only recall having a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day one time. It was in college, and I had such high hopes. Our relationship was fairly new, but I was totes in L-O-V-E. My dorm had a white dry-erase board behind the front desk that everyone had to pass upon entering the building. On a regular day, it had a list of names written on it — names of girls who received packages in the mail.
But on Valentine’s Day, every inch of the board was crowded with the names of girls who received deliveries of flowers and gifts from their boyfriends. And that year, my only dream was that MY name would be among them, squeezed into its own little reserved spot, printed clearly in marker for all to see. I didn’t care if the only thing waiting for me at the front desk was a paper bag full of sawdust. I just wanted my name on the board.
I think I’ve blocked most of the details from my memory, but I DO remember that I didn’t see or hear from my boyfriend at all that day. I checked the board at the front desk every hour, but I never saw my name. He called me at like 9pm and gave me flowers in his car, an afterthought that felt like a close second to doing nothing at all. But I guess since I didn’t explicitly tell him about my whiteboard dreams, I shouldn’t have expected him to just know. Lesson learned.
But, still. I love Valentine’s Day.
I recently read this beautiful piece by Cara Strickland that everyone, regardless of relationship status, should read called My Single Valentine. The end is my favorite part:
“You were dreamed up before the creation of the world, when there was nothing and God had not yet spoken the light into being. You are much more important than a day on the calendar. But more than that, you are worth being celebrated for every second of every day, and it would take eternity for you to be able to even begin to grasp the extent to which you are loved.”
When I turned 31 nine months ago, God began to change my heart in a way I didn’t expect. For years my prayer has been that He would continually reveal my purpose. In my limited scope of human understanding, that meant that I would ask Him to guide my career pursuits and participation in ministry — stuff that requires action, things that can be built upon and grow and be measured.
But what I never bargained for is that He would reveal purpose through my singleness — something I have no control over, something that is a part of who I am, something I’ve spent too much of my adult life being ashamed of / questioning / generally hating. Isn’t it just like Him to use the things we try to hide from to reveal to us how much we are unconditionally loved? Ugh.
I’m pretty good at being single. I’ve done it for a long time. And even though it’s often painfully lonely and awkward, it’s also strangely comfortable because I know how to do it. Over the past nine months, I’ve done my best to take mental snapshots of the best parts of single life — not in a way that diminishes my hopes of being married and having a family someday, but in a way that reminds me that I am worth being celebrated because important bits and pieces of my purpose lie within the fact that I don’t currently have a husband or children.
I never have to tell anyone my plans or what time I’ll be home.
I don’t have to consult another person about my finances.
I can eat an entire pizza in my pajamas on Friday night while watching whatever I want on Netflix until whatever time I decide to go to bed, then wake up at whatever time I decide to wake up on Saturday morning (or afternoon?).
I don’t have to compromise in any sort of decision-making process or tolerate someone’s annoying habits because I legally have to.
I am able to focus my time and energy on ministering to high school girls. I can go with them to camp in the summer, make last-minute dinner plans, have them over to my house, and repeatedly try to convince them that teenage boys are dumb, hoping that one day they’ll actually believe me.
I can babysit for my friends’ kids. I can house-sit and dog-sit for weeks at a time.
I don’t have to share a bathroom with a boy in which I would inevitably find weird little hairs everywhere that are magically invisible to the male eye.
I get a solid 8 hours of sleep every night and naps whenever I want.
In the winter, I can go weeks without shaving, and nobody has any idea.
I can find peace in knowing that I am being guided and refined and that I am discovering new things about myself every day. And someday, if I enter into a marriage relationship, those discoveries I made on my own will only make it stronger.
I get to write about my little life, send it out into the universe, and connect with friends & strangers who say over and over again, “Me, too.”
Yes, some of these revelations are silly. Some are legit. Some of them may be true for married people, too. But the important part is that they’re true for me, and I’m finally beginning to recognize that that’s what He’s wanted me to grasp all along — that my singleness isn’t something for me to put up with in the meantime. It’s not for me to suffer through while I’m waiting for something better. It’s for me to embrace, appreciate, and put to use. To continue discovering my purpose just by being and allowing God to show me that I am precious and loved and important and useful as a single woman.
I’ve been watching Mad Men on Netflix. Three seasons in, it’s pretty clear that every character is a hot damn mess, and I’m glad I wasn’t alive in the 60s. A few episodes ago, Don Draper (Jon Hamm + heart-eyes emoji) visits a friend who gives him some much needed advice:
“The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you’re alone.”
I definitely didn’t expect such a nugget of wisdom interspersed between scenes of workplace drunkenness, sexism, and cheating, but there it was. And I needed it as much as Don did.
I’ve lived too long believing that being single means being alone. But it’s simply not true. I don’t think that happiness is the pinnacle of a life well lived. Maybe it is for Don Draper, but have you seen Mad Men? He’s clearly searching for a “happiness” that he will never find in romantic affairs or professional success. When I heard that line in the show, it morphed and translated into this:
“The only thing keeping you from living a full life in Christ is the belief that you’re alone.”
But I’m NOT alone. And neither are you. Whether you’re married, single, divorced, widowed, or it’s complicated. There’s a dry-erase board in the world somewhere with your name on it. And mine.
We are loved, friends. So, so loved. In Cara’s words, “It would take eternity for you to be able to even begin to grasp the extent to which you are loved.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.