Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, I missed the small pink boxes of tiny hearts that used to be made by Necco. The good news is that, although the Revere institution filed for bankruptcy and shuttered the factory last year, Spangler Candy Co. (the company that took over the rights to Necco’s iconic brands) confirmed Conversation Hearts would return in 2020. While I am not a great fan of the product (they tasted like chalk and were always lagging behind the cultural vernacular), they were a good and inexpensive gift to hand to the kids. Because these confections are a rarely-consumed tradition in my home (like that bowl of mixed nuts at Thanksgiving or those ‘stocking oranges’ at Christmas) I did buy some second-tier Brach’s© Hearts yesterday.
These little hearts that say “BE MINE” or “TEXT ME” or “PUPPY LOVE” or “DREAM BIG”, which may have little or no taste, are not tasteless. They are simple expressions of affection, comfort and encouragement. In a world of incessant honking in the streets and ubiquitous trolling on the internet, a tiny piece of pressed sugar with the words “I (HEART) YOU” might be just what the doctor ordered. We all have times when we need that short and sweet interaction with someone who cares; at those crucial moments we do not want a poem or a lecture – we want a hug, a call or a smile.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Imagine if God produced a box of “Conversation Hearts” for you. Perhaps you would read “BE STRONG”, “BE COURAGEOUS”, “NO FEAR”, “I’LL GO WITH U”, “NEVER LEAVE U” and “NEVER FORSAKE U” (and those are from just one verse from one book in the Bible). Imagine you could place the hundreds of promises contained in the Scriptures, condensed to a dozen or so characters, in a pocket-sized box. Imagine taking one out in those discouraging moments and digesting it – chewing on it, enjoying its sweetness and reflecting on all the sentiment includes – and savoring the moment.
Whatever the date on the calendar, you have someone who loves you more than can be imagined: the God of the universe, as demonstrated in the death of Jesus Christ. It would take a lifetime to apprehend the incomprehensible fullness of this love, but it all begins with a sentiment that can be contained on one of those little hearts. “I (HEART) U”. This expression is something like the emotions contained in those crayon and construction paper cards that mothers keep in a special place. It is not simply what is said but what said by what is said.
It might be a good idea to swing by the grocery store and pick up a bag of discounted hearts, to open them up and read them as if written by God, and to act on them as if certain they are true. Then, literally or figuratively, hug, text and encourage the body of Christ…and wait for next year to get a pink box of chalky affection.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:10–11 (NIV)
Today is Valentine’s Day, a time to celebrate romantic love with, presumably, cards and candy. It is the culturally appropriate time to buy flowers and make reservations at a fancy restaurant for that special someone. Florists, chocolatiers, Hallmark© stores and high-end eateries are all prepared to assist us in expressing our undying affection for our significant others. It is wonderful that we, as 21st century individuals, encourage the celebration of Valentine’s Day. In a texting and Instagram© world, when we could simply electronically express our sentiment with a simple .gif or ‘1 ❤ U’, actively expressing our love for those dear to us is refreshing.
But what about sharing our hearts tomorrow, or the day after that? Is a box of Russell Stover creams or a dozen long-stemmed roses once a year a suitable expression of our genuine love? Will those we love know that we love them on February 18th or June 3rd? What would the world look like if we celebrated Valentine’s Day consistently throughout the year? What would happen if our ‘public displays of affection’ weren’t calendar-driven but willful and heartfelt? In other words, what if our expression of love imitated the love of our Creator?
Most of those that are reading this know about the Bible’s “Love Chapter” – 1 Corinthians 13. We’ve heard it at weddings and seen it on religious artwork: “Love is patient, love is kind…. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” However there is another chapter of scripture that addresses the subject of love – 1 John 4. There we see the origin of love (the nature of God), the fullest expression of love (Christ’s atoning sacrifice) and the command to love (we ought to love one another in the same manner as God’s love for us). It is apparent that God’s love is not solely expressed in the middle of February.
So, what would it look like if we loved like God? We would give those we love our word and we would then keep our word. We would give those we love that which is most precious to us without reservation or regret. We would freely forgive those we love and then choose to no longer remember their offenses. We would be generous and gracious toward those we love. We would equip and encourage those we love so that they can be and do all that they were created to accomplish. We would make our relationship with those we love THE priority for our lives and determine to never leave or forsake them.
I hope that you have a joyous and happy Valentine’s Day. I hope that you have a ‘special someone’ with whom you can spend the day. If you find yourself alone, remember that there is someone who has said to you, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” – and He loves you very much!