We have windows facing the north, east, and south of our house. Every morning for about five minutes, I get to see part of the sunshine as it creeps up past our neighbor’s brick wall and sneaks into my window before it rises higher, becoming indirect light for the rest of the day. There is another small slice of time when it shines full force into the laundry room downstairs and bathroom upstairs. During those times, if I’m able, I practically paste myself to the glass pane while it shines its bright happiness on my white and wintry face. Growing up with access to full sunshine every day it didn’t rain, makes its absence more intense some days. Yesterday, I even climbed the Himalayas for it.
Ok, so it wasn’t the actual Himalayas. It happened to be this ginormous seven-foot snow-pile in our front yard, with a tiny corner of sunshine right at the top calling my name. For a few minutes I disappeared into a world dripping with vitamin D and vast expanses.
Then Betty started crying because she couldn’t get up from the deep snow where she had fallen.
Yesterday was Valentine’s day. We generally don’t make a huge fuss about it. If it truly is commemorating an amazing man who was martyred because of his faith in Christ, and who helped to secretly marry Christians who were being persecuted for their faith, because he believed so strongly in the institution of marriage before God, then I think we’ve cheapened it immensely. Passing out messily-written notes out of obligation isn’t exactly how I imagine we should memorialize love. Not to say I dislike Valentines Day, or I didn’t immensely enjoy seeing so many fun and creative ideas floating around yesterday. I mostly dislike the mandatory feeling placed upon so many, when love should never be forced. We have fallen prey to this just as much as anyone else. I MADE my children create valentines for their classmates. It was an assignment, though, not a freewill offering on their part. There is something beautiful about love given when you don’t ask for it, and love received when you know it wasn’t coerced.
When Matthew was on his way home from work, I asked him to stop at the store for a couple of items we needed for supper that night. I ended with, “Don’t buy me flowers!” He replied, “I wasn’t going to!” Then we both laughed. That’s how we work. Don’t buy me flowers when they’ll be jacked up in price to more than is ethically possible. Don’t buy me flowers out of obligation because every other guy is doing it. Buy me flowers (better yet, pick them for me when they’re free and fresh from the garden!) when I least expect it and because YOUR heart told you to do so, not some looming expectation from society is practically forcing it upon you.
Giving out of guilt is one of my biggest pet peeves. It was one of Paul’s too, in the Bible. This is in the context of money, not valentines:
Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give.
(2 Corinthians 9:7) God loves a cheerful giver: one whose heart is in the giving.
We can not force people to give. Actually, sadly, we can, but we most certainly can not make people’s hearts love to give. Nothing feels less loving than conditional love. Nothing feels less generous than compulsory giving. Nothing produces less blessing than forced and guilt-driven gifts. This goes way beyond Valentines day. The joy of giving is actually stolen when it becomes no longer voluntary but because someone is begging for it. Don’t steal my joy or reward by forcing upon me a dollar amount, a percentage, or a suggested amount. Giving should not be packaged like a vitamin, with its Recommended Daily Allowance to go along with it. It is incredibly personal and no one’s business.
The only consistent amount of money, time or services we are instructed to give can be summed up in a few words. Give secretly. Give willingly. Give until it hurts. Give your best. Give your all.
As I look outside, it appears as if a few more inches are being added to our Mount Everest. We may have a few more climbs before the weekend is over.