I was in 2nd grade. Eric was my love interest of choice, probably because he wanted nothing to do with me and I was never one to back down from a challenge. Valentine’s Day had arrived, and I was determined to win his affection.
As a class, it was time to distribute our valentines, each student’s box decorated and on display. For Eric, I’d put in some extra effort. I made a homemade card embellished with sequins and Star Wars stickers. As a capstone, I taped a Snickers — his favorite — to the envelope.
I dropped it in his box and waited.
Minutes later, he dumped all his valentines from the box onto his desk. He saw the Snickers, tore off the wrapper and stuffed half the candy bar into his mouth. I held my breath as he ripped open the envelope and quickly (too quickly) scanned my handwritten declaration of undying love. I stared in horror as, without even a glance at me, he unceremoniously tossed my valentine in the trash. In the trash. Lip quivering, I ran outside and cried behind the jungle gym for a full 30 minutes.
In general, Valentine’s Day is still much the same for me as it was in 2nd grade. I’m single, so clearly there are still plenty of men who want nothing to do with me. My lip quivers at the first sign of rejection. I have a love-hate relationship with Snickers bars. But rather than letting Valentine’s Day (and the Erics of the world) dictate my mood and steal my joy, I chose long ago to face February 14th without fear. If you’re single with no romantic prospects in sight, here are a few ideas for how to do the same.
It’s OK to be sad. Valentine’s Day is marketed for couples, and if you don’t have a plus-one, it’s easy to feel left out. Whether you’ve been overlooked in love, you’ve recently walked through a breakup or divorce, or perhaps the love of your life has died, love lost is something to be grieved. Don’t be ashamed to give yourself the time and space you need. The Bible even invites us to pour out our complaint to God himself. After all, he’s the one who not only cares about our sadness, but also has the power to do something about it.
Get some perspective. If you think everyone is celebrating without you, think again. In fact, I know very few couples who get excited about Valentine’s Day. When asked, many admit to me their dread. Whether the pressure or the expense or the blatant commercialism attached to the day, most people approach February 14th with an overwhelming sense of meh.
This is an especially good time to remember that your relationship status isn’t the biggest thing about you, nor does it define you — and changing that status won’t fix anything about you or fill any void inside you. There are plenty of lonely married people, just as there are many singles living purposeful, relationally-rich lives. God is the only person who can meet your deepest needs, married or single. If you’re looking for another human to do that, you’ll forever be disappointed. Of course, it’s still nice to get candy and flowers, but Valentine’s Day is just a day — a snapshot in time. You’re much more than a square on a calendar, and only God knows what that square will hold next year.
Own the day without letting it own you. Decide what your day will look like. Wake up determined to infuse it with fun. Take a break from your workday and go for a walk or have lunch with a friend. Throw on your earbuds and crank up a favorite playlist. As your coworkers’ flower deliveries arrive (and they will), ask them to share how they met their spouse or significant other. Make evening plans — a movie, game night, or time with a favorite book. You’re in charge of your time and your emotions. Tell them who’s boss.
Lead with love. Contrary to popular belief, St. Valentine wasn’t a mushy, sentimental dude who traipsed about the countryside with roses and chocolate. He was a third-century priest who ministered to persecuted Christians and was eventually executed for his efforts. A day in his honor is perfect for loving the lonely, the forgotten, and the friendless. Who do you know that could use a friend? Who needs to be seen, heard, and invited into your circle? My 96-year-old neighbor is usually factored into my plans on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year. I often throw a “Galentine’s” party for my girlfriends who are single. A phone call, a handwritten card, an invitation to coffee or dinner — these things go a long way in letting someone know you care.
By February 15th the candy will be on sale and the heart-shaped bouquets will be wilting. It’ll be just another day in another year of work, bills, appointments, and responsibilities. But on February 14th, I’ll wear a red sweater, buy myself flowers, call my family, and smile all day.
Because it’s Valentine’s Day, and despite my singleness, failed relationships, and lackluster dating prospects, I have a God who’s got both today and the future in his complete control.
And He loves me — no Snickers required.