For me, it’s all about the strawberries.Chocolate-covered.Box of ten.Fresh. From Malley’s.
I have no problem dropping hints, either.“The drive-through line opens at 6:30 am,” I’ve been known to mutter in my pre-dawn sleepiness as my husband leaves for work every February 14th.Sure, I like romantic surprises, but I also like to get what I want, and like I said, for me, it’s all about the strawberries.They symbolize, no, they ARE love.
It wasn’t always this way.In grade school, it was all about the valentines.You know the ones I’m talking about.The small ones with cartoon greetings that slipped into teeny tiny envelopes and sealed with a heart sticker.My parents made sure I gave one to everyone in the class…yes, everyone.I agonized over them.“I can’t give this one to him….I only like him; I don’t like him, like him!”I stuffed the ones I received into a heart-shaped construction paper basket taped to my desk.I opened and read them and then reread them, wondering if there was a hidden meaning behind “You’re Wheely Great,” the preprinted words on a Matchbox Cars valentine.
By high school, of course, it was all about the ones I didn’t get…the ones I wanted to receive but never did, the ones I sent that were never acknowledged.
Back then, valentines were important to me.These days, I want to say only, “Show me the Malley’s box.”Except that this year, I didn’t need the strawberries.This year, for me, Valentine’s Day came in January.
It was a normal (busy and chaotic) afternoon.The boys were running laps through my house (practicing for some future marathon, no doubt), my husband was cooking dinner, and my daughter and I were preparing to clean the cage for her guinea pig, Charm.
Yes, Charm:A name chosen in the early hours of Christmas morning a year ago.
Note to Santa……...no more live animals.
Anyway, we were getting ready to clean the cage.I say “we” because as anyone who has ever allowed her 9-year-old to have a pet of “my very own” knows, the aforementioned 9-year-old really only wants the glory and not the, how shall I say, GRIME of the “pet of my very own.”And so, we secured Charm in his waiting spot.I had just dumped out the old soiled bedding and scraped away the remaining “residue” when the phone rang.While I answered it, I asked Hannah to put the soap in the cage bottom.
I don’t even remember what the call was about, but when I returned to our task, I was a bit “stressed”.When I grabbed the container, there it was… my valentine:I ♥ U! written in giant dish soap letters at the bottom of the filthy guinea pig cage.An unexpected message in an unexpected place.And it struck me as possibly one of the best expressions of love I’d ever received.(Of course, I did find my engagement ring hidden in a Burger King bag, but that’s another story.)It reminded me of the love that Jesus has for me and for each one of you.He expresses it even in our filth.Especially in our filth.
Because, after all, isn’t that how Jesus shows His love for us?His is an unexpected message in an unexpected place.Has He not written “I love you” on top of the filth in our lives time and time again?We allow such a build-up to accumulate that only His “grime-fighting” love and mercy have the power to break through and cleanse us.Just as Hannah and I faithfully clean Charm’s cage, Jesus cleanses our lives and the mess we always seem to make of them.
Take a minute to examine the current “filth” of your life.What “mess” is most in need of His love and mercy right now?Invite Him into the middle of it.Allow Him to dump the old, soiled stuff you’ve been living in and scrape away any remaining residue.Then, close your eyes and receive the healing power of His everyday Valentine message:I Love You.
Take a few minutes to remember a time when you received an unexpected message of love in an unexpected place or at an unexpected time.Thank God for the person who was His messenger that day.Ask God to reveal to you an opportunity this month for you to deliver that same message to someone in your life.It might be someone in your own home, or it might be a stranger standing in line behind you at the grocery store. Be open to delivering His message.
For me, it’s usually about the strawberries.But this year, it was all about a message. Simple.Unexpected.Written in dish soap letters.In filth.