I haven’t celebrated Valentine’s Day in quite a long time.
It’s not that I have anything against the holiday in particular. It’s just that my wife’s and my birthdays and our anniversary (and Christmas) all fall within three months of each other. There’s just no more room for gift-giving.
So for me, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that exists in my childhood memory: a holiday of slipping store-bought cards into shoeboxes at elementary school parties. (Of course, we had to give Valentines to everyone, regardless of how we actually felt about the children in question.) It was a holiday of candy hearts and chocolate kisses, as if we needed a candy-related holiday to tide us over between Halloween and Easter.
Each Valentine’s Day passed by pretty innocuously. None of the cards ever said anything particularly meaningful.
Until, one Valentine’s Day, I learned I had a secret admirer.
Just Like in the Movies
By high school, the awkwardness of exchanging Valentine cards with other children had passed, and the awkwardness of actually trying to get attention from the other gender was now a way of life. I did not show up to school with a stack of cards to hand out to my high school acquaintances, and I certainly didn’t expect to receive any.
But lo and behold, I opened my locker on Valentine’s Day, and found a note.
Yes, a real, actual secret admirer note. Written in cursive, and carefully folded before being deposited in my locker. There were even some fanciful little marker drawings in the margins. I didn’t know people wrote notes like that, except in movies or stories. But here it was, Valentine’s Day, and I was holding a note from a secret admirer.
Put On Your Detective Hats
I quickly stashed the note in my pocket, to ensure utmost secrecy, and to prevent prying eyes from catching sight of the revelatory note. But it was all I thought about for the rest of the day. Nothing else mattered, except that note, and the person behind it.
Suddenly, I was like a detective, searching for any clues that would lead me to identify the author of the note. I carefully studied the other faces in each classroom, trying to determine who it might be. At home, I subjected the note to rigorous testing. I carefully studied the handwriting. I smelled and tasted and parsed the few words, hoping that some hidden code would suddenly spring from the page, illuminating its secrets. Maybe I could dust it for fingerprints…
On the Verge of a Great Love Story
Over the next several days, I gained no further insights on my secret admirer. But as a dateless teenager, just the knowledge that someone had written it changed everything. I was fixated on my long-awaited romantic breakthrough. I imagined that my admirer was actually someone I secretly admired, and we were on the verge of a great love story.
I waited for my admirer to confess her feelings.
And I waited.
But no one came to me to whisper softly in my ear that she was my secret admirer and could no longer contain her feelings of fiery, passionate love and undying devotion for me, as my fertile imagination had hoped. I hung onto the note for quite a long time, and never learned who wrote it, or if it was even sincere or a phony.
Eventually, whatever feelings that scrap of paper had stirred in my mind dried up. I rediscovered some months later under some socks in my drawer, a mystery never to be solved. The note went into the trash…secretly.
The Value of Secret Love
The thing about words that are left unspoken, about feelings that remain unexpressed, or faith that is kept secret, is that they aren’t any good to anyone.
Loving someone secretly, but never telling them so doesn’t mean a whole lot. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high school crush or the people who share your house. It doesn’t really matter if you imagine lovely poetry in your head, if your hands never write it or your voice never speaks it.
Loving your neighbor in the safe confines of your own home is pretty meaningless. Silently forgiving someone, but never saying so isn’t much different from not forgiving someone at all.
Jesus just didn’t go for secret admirers, because he never was a secret admirer. All of his love was laid bare for everyone to see. And he calls us to love the same way, to admit that we love. If you want a great love story, you have to live it.
It’s just not love if it’s a secret.
Did you ever have a secret-admirer?
[Photo: NatShots Photography, Creative Commons]