The last couple of days our kids have been working on preparing their valentines and building personalized boxes to collect cards from their classmates. I got involved in the creation of the boxes, and am pleased to report that a power tool was involved.
However, working with the kids to prepare valentines always carries a tinge of regret for me. While I don’t remember specifics about any other valentine’s day celebrations at school, I remember one in particular. When I was in early elementary school, there was a kid in my class who was relentlessly teased. I am utterly ashamed to admit it, but I walked by his desk as we were handing out our valentines, called him one of the names we called him, and told him I wasn’t giving him a valentine.
Yes, it was horrible. And anyone reading this is shuddering at the thought of it (as a dad, it’s honestly a little difficult to even write this).
I remember regretting it, but I never said anything to him about it. Within a couple of years his family moved away.
Fast forward maybe 15 years to my early twenties. I had since started following Jesus in earnest, was recently married, and had just entered full-time inner-city ministry. I had traveled back to a city near where I had grown up and had been invited to share with some adult Sunday School classes at a church about our ministry. After Sunday School, I sat down in the sanctuary maybe 3 or 4 rows from the back and began worshiping with the congregation. A few minutes in, I glanced behind me and noticed a guy coming in the back. He didn’t see me but came and sat in the row directly behind me. When I looked closer, I realized It was him.
Immediately, there in the middle of worship, Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:23-24 came to mind:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Sometimes in life we wonder if God might be telling us to do something. Then there are those times when it’s so clear, there is really no choice.
I got up from my seat in the middle of worship, leaned over to him, and asked if I could talk with him out in the hallway. I apologized to him that day, not only on my behalf but also on behalf of all of us who undoubtedly made school very, very difficult for him. He was gracious and offered forgiveness.
So for me Valentine’s day is not only about romantic love but also about brotherly love. For my kids it’s as much about friendship as anything. It’s also a great time to reflect on both those we love and those from whom we’ve withheld love.
Our work, our advocacy for children, and our parenting are all ways we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. There are times in the midst of giving those offerings, we need to stop and go make something right. Maybe someone is coming to mind for you. Maybe it’s finally time to give them a call and wish them a happy Valentine’s Day.