Many of you may be struggling with loss or disappointment over this Valentine’s Day. Nothing turned out like you hoped, and you wonder why you dreamed it could at all. It is just one more day that proves just how far off peace and love and faithfulness truly are. Impossible.
Your reality is too troublesome for you to engage in fantasies about a life without this much pain and distress — emotional abuse is all you know, even if all it amounts to is loneliness and bitterness over the absence of people to care about you.
For the full, Valentine’s Day is one to celebrate, for the empty it is a day to remind one of the reasons for self-pity and the wealth of resentment that hides beneath the surface until another supposed-to-be-wonderful day comes around again.
But, maybe in some bitter-sweet way, these days are gifts — not just to the satisfied, but to the insatiable. Maybe our hunger for more is being piqued, not by a series of cruel events, or a date on the calendar, but by Someone Who wants to get our attention.
Could we be missing something? Something so great and mysterious that it would be worth listening?
If this sounds ridiculous to you, don’t worry. I’ll spell out what Who it is and what He’s saying.
Or, maybe I should start with us — you and I.
A. We are lonely
B. We wonder if we will ever truly know what love is like
C. We sometimes worry we’re crazy — expecting too much of things — because we’ve never seen proof that loneliness has an end, or unending love has a beginning.
D. We’ve looked all over, and haven’t found anything deeply and infinitely satisfying yet. Is there anywhere else to look? Or is this all there is and we are just assuming we can have more than we shall?
These questions couldn’t be more perfect. They show what’s inside — at the very core of our beings — a desire to be whole. We are almost constantly aware of something that is missing. Whatever we can get to stick on the outside ultimately fails to touch the inside; to live up to our expectations for happiness and peace.
So, what is missing?
What we need is something that does not so closely resemble us, or so reflect our engineering that it carries the same disease of emptiness we long to be freed from. We need something deeper than ourselves — something captivating and soul-sustaining.
Some call that need love. They would be the wise among us. But, we cannot bank on just any love we can find on the street somewhere. We need a love that has been tested and proven strong; a passion that will fill us up, not drain us out and leave us alone. We’ve had enough of that.
Even when delivered to us at the right time, all the red roses, boxes of chocolates and kisses in the world cannot make up for the days that we need love that is strong enough to acknowledge us, build us up and work in us even at our mean- and messiest.
Love must offer hope that is beyond who we are or what we’ve done to be a life-line. Only Christ can offer us this kind of love.
Christ is not a religious icon, or a figment of a spiritualist’s imagination. He is God who once chose to be a man to die on a cross that represented the crux of our suffering mess.
This is good news not because He took on all our suffering, and will now make it all go away, but because He has brought an end to the hopelessness of our suffering. (If that still doesn’t sound too good, wait till you see the picture in full.)
Let’s go back to the rose. We all love roses (who doesn’t?), but most of us rarely consider the whole rose when we profess this affection. By the time we come in contact with a rose, it has been perfectly cropped and arranged. We see a beautiful rosebud in full bloom with a healthy, young, thorn-less stem.
But, is this the real rose? What about a rose in the truest sense of the word? It is a flower of incomparable beauty, but it is also a botanical wonder that we will not handle without care — it can harm us easily, piercing the skin unexpectedly and drawing blood.
We are careful to reach out for this attraction. It is at its most natural that a rose represents real love. For love to be true it must draw others in, but protect against ones who will not handle it with adoration and respect. For a rose to be stripped of its shield-of-thorns it will die; the same is true for us.
We belong in relationship with others, to bring delight and receive the like, but we must be sure that our vulnerability will be protected effectively. How do we insure this?
As figurative roses, we are of the colony of roses that have been deprived of our original thorns. At first glance this makes us more appealing, but it doesn’t make us any healthier, or livelier. Rather, we are ready to dying, while the most important part of us is missing.
So, how can we make the the thorns reemerge in us? Well, staying in the dirty water of our keeper’s vase, rarely getting plant food isn’t the answer. We must be reattached to the rose bush we were taken from, and become nourished again by the life of the plant. As a solitary rose we are dead — it is only a matter of time before the wilting sets in and our real state is known. We are not as pretty or vibrant as we appear, the difference is the emptiness that is now on the inside.
But, as a part of the bush we belong to, new life can emerge, and we can become whole again. This is what the Christ came to do for us when He died. He presents Himself as the One we have been removed from, the One life dwells in. He wants to reinsert us into the life-system of His love — the main rosebush.
The loneliness that creeps up on days like this is meant to alert us to our one big problem: We are every day, perhaps unconsciously missing out on Life — the love and care of Jesus Christ.
This is not how we are supposed to be or where God wants us to stay — just as the rose does not truly belong in the vase trying to survive another day on synthetic plant enzymes. It is because of our internal emptiness, and the garbage we discover then, that God came as the Christ to die the vase death for us and reconnect us to the rosebush. The vase represents living for ourselves in a world that is fading away, and the rosebush represents God who is Life and Love to be enjoyed by all who believe He is the only way for them to be restored to the rose-reality they were meant for.
So, the deal is now:
A. Christ is God
B. God came to earth for your sake — to reconnect you with His life in the relationship you broke by deciding to live without Him.
C. With Him is life, and without Him is death. Unless you allow Him to reconnect you, you will never know life or love, only a sham.
D. God reconnects you when you offer your empty heart to Him, thanking Him for seeking it out, and welcoming Him to fill it with His love and life.
It’s not hard, and it’s not complicated. Like me, you have a need, you cannot fill it, you must accept the One Who has already arranged the satisfaction, you just have to tell Him you accept His gift, you want it, you need what only He can give you.
Make this your day for God to work in you, and your life will never be the same. Jesus will introduce you to more of His life, and expose more of death’s emptiness as He turns you into the kind of rose that blooms without ceasing — a show of the power of the bush you’re rooted in. Happy Love-Coming-In Day!