By Contributing Writer, Lori Wagner
Cards. Candies. Flowers. Sure! Bring them on! Let’s celebrate love. Love is, after all, the greatest virtue. As February 14 approaches and we prepare to remember the special ones in our lives—somewhere between the cherubs and chocolates let’s take a moment to look at the obscure yet fascinating beginnings of what we know as Valentine’s Day.
The origins of Valentine’s Day are shrouded in mystery. Three notable men in history were named Valentine. One was a priest who was said to have secretly performed marriages in Rome after Claudius II outlawed marriage to “improve” his crop of soldiers. Valentine was reportedly discovered and put to death—a martyr for love’s sake. Another version of his story suggests that Valentine was executed for his efforts to help Christians escape the tortures of Roman prisons.
A second man named Valentine is a party of a legend with a surprising twist. In this tale of old, the first-ever Valentine card was said to have been sent by Valentine to himself while he was in prison. He fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and allegedly sent the note in hopes that he might have a visit from her before his death. It was signed “from your Valentine,” a phrase popular on cards today.
Little is known about the third man, Valentine, except that he was buried on February 14. Although unproven, the legends of Valentine’s Day appeal to our senses of nobility—to heroism and romance. Of course we love this stuff. What woman doesn’t appreciate a romantic hero?
Like lovers of days gone by, today people exchange notes and tokens of affection on Valentine’s Day. Did you know an estimated one billion Valentine cards are shared each year? And God only knows how many boxes of chocolates and stuffed animals.
As I was thinking of the river of affection flowing on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t help but reflect on the most wonderful Valentine of all time. Still preserved in integrity, even after all these years, this “Valentine” is more than a card, but an entire love story written by a groom for his fiancé. It’s so intricate and involved that it begins with the details of the bride’s birth and watches as she grows from infancy to maturity and prepares for her wedding day. You might have guessed, but I’ll make it plain: I’m talking about Jesus and His bride. His message of love is written for all to read in the Bible.
When I look at the Bible, I really do see a love story. During Creation, God stretched out a canopy over the earth (Genesis 1:6; Isaiah 40:22). Canopies aren’t just set up anywhere and for no good reasons. The Earth was established as a special place, and God was preparing to do something wonderful beneath the starlit covering. This makes me think of a Jewish wedding and the canopy (chuppah) the bride and groom stand beneath for the ceremony.
Now, back to the beginning. Just imagine the flowers and beauty this incredible Groom presented in the Garden of Eden. It was surely a riot of color and glorious blooms. And we’re not talking stuffies, here—a plush teddy bear to squeeze at bedtime. No. He gave them live animals! Those were some exotic gifts.
Things were going along great. The lovers were having nice walks and talks in the Garden in the cool of the day, and they were chilling with the critters; but then this outsider got involved and planted seeds of discontentment. You know what happened next. Adam and Eve, the first “cells” of God’s “Bride,” became contaminated by disobedience. But God loved them so much He couldn’t just write them off and look for another. Oh no. He’s faithful, even when people like us mess up.
After Adam and Eve sinned, well, a lot of things changed, but not God’s love. He made a way for the contaminated to be in relationship with the holy, and He did it through a covenant—that’s also a part of a Jewish wedding (the ketuba, or contract). There, outside Eden, even knowing his beloved’s warts and failings, God made a covenant with them. Throughout time, He’s renewed and expanded that covenant with Noah, Abraham, Israel, etc. As His Bride grew and developed, she had some wayward teenage years—some rebellious, selfish times—but through it all, her Lover never gave up on her.
In God’s love story, we are now in a chapter of developing maturity. The “Bride” has grown from a sacred “mitosis” that began with Adam, then split off to Eve, and has continued to grow throughout the pages of time. There’s way too much to cover in one short article, but I just wanted you to get a glimpse into the sacred love letter of the ages. From Genesis to Revelation, the story unfolds. It is a story of a wedding all set to take place…and we’re all invited!
Throughout the Bible, God uses the analogy of a bride and groom to give people a picture of the relationship of Jesus and the church. In the same way a groom pledges love to his fiancé, Jesus made a commitment to His beloved—and that promise is extended to you and me. When we answer “yes” to Jesus, we become His betrothed—we enter into a covenant relationship with the Lord of glory. How cool is that?
Like the origins of Valentine’s Day, the Bible has its mysteries, to be sure. But there is no mystery in its overarching theme—it’s central message. God made the earth. God made you. He wants you for His own.
He’s issued His invitation. It’s up to us to RSVP. The way to do that is found in the Bible, too. It’s like those cards that come pre-stamped and self-addressed when you get a wedding invitation in the mail. The person extending the invitation makes it easy to respond.
When Peter was asked “What shall we do?” he gave the answer in Acts 2:38. Think of it as the language on the RSVP card: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” When I read this verse in the Amplified version, I came up with a little acronym.
- Repentance = Receiving deep inside ourselves God’s beautiful plans for our lives, allowing them to supersede our own limited ideas and motivations.
- Surrender = Living our lives in agreement with God’s plans instead of our own agendas and desires, knowing that His ways are best and in our best interest.
- Vision = Understanding our value, our hope for the future, and accessing new spiritual life now. After all, eternal life includes today!
- Purpose = Determining to do whatever it takes to be ready for that great wedding day (Revelation 19:7).
When we truly understand our value, our worth, God’s purpose and plans for our lives—our hearts just might warm up enough to melt a box of Valentine’s chocolates. Mmmm. We can sweeten up our world with a heart full of oozy love! And that’s my prayer for you today: that your heart is warm and full, overflowing like a chocolate fountain with joyful songs of love, acceptance and purpose.
Did you RSVP yet?
Mrs. Lori Wagner is a gifted author, communicator and speaker. In 2006, she founded Affirming Faith to provide resources that educate, entertain and encourage Christians of all denominations. In the past six years, she has published twelve books, including the record-breaking "The Girl in the Dress." In addition to Affirming Faith activities, Lori also serves as the Michigan State Coordinator for the National Day of Prayer and as an elected precinct delegate in her community. She loves to worship and share with others the goodness of God and rich treasures found in His Word. She and her husband Bill live in Michigan with their children and one spoiled dog.