Many years ago, as my calendar page flipped to reveal the month of February, I would begin to withdraw.. Shadows that remained tucked neatly behind closed doors in my mind made their way to the front to remind me of how stained this month and the looming holiday were. I would avoid stores as the shelves, with their hearts and cupids and declarations of “true love,” were a stinging slap in my face. 

Weeks would pass where the goal was to get through the day and move on to March. For almost an entire month I would shut down, step aside, and let life move on without me. My husband understood there would be no mention of Valentine’s Day and no celebrating of any kind. I would buy the necessary boxed cards for my children to exchange and nothing more. Everyone walked on eggshells while we tiptoed through these difficult weeks.

This commercialized holiday was an annual reminder of events from my past that I felt robbed me of my worth and identity, and distorted my views of God and humanity. I felt as if by ignoring this painful day, I had control over it, and believed this for so many wasted years. In reality, by not dealing with those memories, the pain had control over me.

God gently, consistently showed me I needed to surrender this pain and let Him into these difficult places I just wanted to forget. Ignoring these memories worked sometimes, but God had a better plan. When I truly surrendered, “I felt the hand of the Lord take hold of me”  (Ezekiel 1:3b). When I stopped ignoring the pain I hadn’t fully dealt with and gave it to God, I felt the Lord begin to guide me in a way I had never allowed Him to before. 

He shows us, over and over again in His Word, of His redemptive Love. A beautiful mosaic of story after story that point us to Jesus from Genesis to Revelation; revealing the great lengths He goes to so that we will live in freedom – from sin, death, and anything that seeks to destroy us or keep us from living a full life. All too often we try to handle it ourselves, missing out on the tremendous beauty and restorative power of redemption. One definition of redemption is “to win back or buy back;” another to “free from captivity.” God is in the trading business – trading ashes for beauty, prisons for wide open spaces, suffering and sorrow for unfathomable joy. There’s nothing God can’t redeem, and He longs for us to let Him display His power in our pain.

His redeeming Love began a great work in me and began to redefine Valentine’s Day for me as well. The pain from that day has no hold on me now, and that freedom is a cause for celebration. Valentine’s Day has become a day I get to pour out God’s love by serving my family and those around me and has become one of our very favorite holidays. For many years we’ve had the tradition of beginning this holiday with a big breakfast of Strawberry Nutella French Toast Roll Ups at an elegantly set table with reminders of how deeply loved each of them are. We spend the day letting people know about, and showing them, God’s great love. We deliver treats, make crafts, and eat wonderful food.

God didn’t want to make Valentine’s Day tolerable for me, He wanted to transform it. He didn’t want to pacify me, He wanted to create a wellspring of delight.

For years I had God in a box and didn’t understand the ridiculously wonderful depths of His love for us. He is a God of abundance, and He greatly desires to make those trades in our lives so that we can live in that abundance. His trades are never fair and they only make sense when you draw close and let Him show you through His lens of extravagant grace and redemptive Love.

– Mel Anderson

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash