Truth be told, I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. I believe love is expressed countless times in a variety of ways every single day. Not just on this one special occasion.
In grade school we determine how lovable we are by the number of cards we receive in our decorated boxes on the corner of our desks. In high school we determine our lovability by the number of secret admirers who profess their love through anonymous valentines.
As an adult, it seems every restaurant, floral shop, and grocery store reminds us of our love quotient: will I be worthy enough of that special box of chocolates or arrangement of roses; or will I be overlooked, ignored, discarded for a newer or more popular model?
How did I become so dependent on others to feel love and value?
I think it began in early childhood, perhaps as young as kindergarten. I attended parochial school where the Bible was our textbook. I memorized scripture and earned the gold star, but somehow the words became twisted on the way to my heart.
I was taught to fear the Lord and always put others first.
As a child, however, I equated fear of the Lord to BE afraid. After all, I could not hide from Him. He knew everything I did or thought. In my mind, He was always lurking behind the door, trying to catch me in a compromising position. And He relished writing down each infraction in my Ledger of Life.
Two years ago I decided this view of God was not working. How could I spread the Good News if I did not find God good? How I could show the unconditional love of Christ when I did not recognize it myself?
So I decided to focus my Bible study on the loving nature of God, on His mercy and grace rather than judgment and wrath. Slowly I began to realize that I am loved by God – unconditionally.
But recently I became aware of another childhood misinterpretation of a key scripture verse: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:36-39)
While my eyes read, love your neighbor AS yourself, my mind interpreted, love your neighbor INSTEAD of yourself.
Yes, we are to love others, minister to those in need, extend grace and mercy to our enemies – but we are also to do the same for ourselves.
If we do not accept and love ourselves as God loves us – if we do not tend to our personal needs – if we do not extend grace and mercy to our shortcomings, we will deplete the well and have nothing left to give to others.
An empty well breeds resentment, and the seed of bitterness will take root in our barren heartland. This harms our relationship with the Lord and our ministry to others.
So this February, open the Bible and read the greatest Valentine of all: a love letter from your heavenly Father to his beloved daughter. And then do something special to fill your well.
©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope
Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.