The Scripture is full of people whose most life-changing encounters with the Lord occurred while they were in places they did not want to be….He may be about to use this dry or dreadful season in your life as the catalyst to reveal an important, relevant message to you.
-Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God, 84
February 14 is my least favorite day of the year. Being single on a day whose entire purpose is to celebrate romantic love is tough, at least for me. And I have never, at any point in my life, had a romantic love to celebrate on Valentine’s Day.
Every year that wound cuts deeper.
It doesn’t matter that I know plenty of couples who spurn this day as a made-up Hallmark money-grubbing con. Couples who love each other every day and don’t need to spend extra cash to show it once a year. Couples who laugh in the face of schmaltzy displays of roses and chocolate.
They get to choose to ignore Valentine’s Day. The choice makes all the difference.
Love’s a disease, and it rips me apart
Come heal my ravaged heart
-The Mission UK, “Belief”
I thought I might be okay this year because I’ve been focusing on living in God’s love. I woke up Friday feeling optimistic about what the day would hold, but by late afternoon anticipation had sharpened to disappointment: there’d been nothing more exciting than errands and a walk in the park that was supposed to be a workout but ended too quickly, thanks to my nervous dog and my own weakness after a bout of flu. I’m sure flu-imposed isolation also contributed to the cabin fever that smacked me hard that afternoon, the suddenly intense need to look at four walls that were not the same four walls I’d been staring at all week, no matter how colorfully decorated with photographs and upbeat sayings those walls might be.
So I grabbed my gym bag and threw in clothes, my journal, and several books, the titles of which tell you everything you need to know about my state of mind:
- Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt by Austin Fischer
- Don’t Give Up: Faith That Gives You the Confidence to Keep Believing and the Courage to Keep Going by Kyle Idleman
- Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst
- It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa TerKeurst
I texted my good friend who lives fifteen feet from me and loves Rufus as much as I do, and she agreed to pet-sit with zero notice. She even met me at my car with a chocolate cupcake for the road.
And then I drove into the sunset, which is less idyllic than it sounds when you live in a place crawling with crepuscular deer and know several people whose vehicles have been totaled as a result.
Yeah, I was not in a glass-half-full mood.
I hit the interstate and headed south, and I kept the radio on so I wouldn’t have to talk or listen to God in the silence, because I did not want to hear whatever God had to say. God, after all, is the one ultimately responsible for the lack of romantic possibilities in my life — and I even blame God for the fact that the last man who showed interest in me complimented my eyes with such weird avidity that I got the uneasy sense he was envisioning them in a jar of formaldehyde on his nightstand. God could keep whatever God had to say to Godself and, while we were at it, put up with my furiously loud and off-key attempts to sound like everyone from Steven Tyler to Lizzo.
There’s a Ray Bradbury quote from Something Wicked This Way Comes that I love so much I have it tattooed on my leg: “You had to run with a night like this so the sadness could not hurt.” For me, that quote has never been about running away from pain, per se. Rather, it’s acknowledging it, recognizing it exists but refusing to sit in it and give it power — literally pounding the pavement until joy, or at least relief, bursts through. That’s the way I read the scene in the novel where this line appears, and that’s the reminder I intended to give myself when I got the tattoo: Don’t wallow; run, and keep on running until the pain retreats.
But what I learned this weekend — despite myself — is that there’s a time to run and a time to be still. A time to fight the pain and a time to experience it.
God’s deliverance often follows closely upon a time of desperation. His blessing tends to fall upon a condition of brokenness. Throughout history, his most powerful servants have all come from a place of desolation and defeat.
-Kyle Idleman, Don’t Give Up, 43