According to one news source, about 192 million Valentine's Day cards were received last year in the United States alone.
Of course, not all these Valentines were addressed to my dearest darling. A good portion probably said, For the best sister ever. To my oldest friend. To a sweet daughter. To the world's best mom. Cards can be gentle reminders that a relative or friend is in our thoughts.
Still, many people go through this day feeling they've missed out on something - usually someone - special.
For years, I found myself waiting for a special someone to come along - the kind of romance I read about in magazines or saw in movies.
I wondered how I was supposed to find this romantic love. I had a lot of boyfriends. But that's what they were - good friends. And when I finally did feel all those feelings that are supposed to go along with "falling in love," I was actually miserable. When good friends tried to warn me (both times!) that I was on the wrong track, I didn't think I could be happy any other way. I felt captive to my emotions.
What I finally glimpsed was the difference between mere romance and far-reaching, unselfish love - the kind where the general welfare of other human beings matters to us as much as our own. This kind of love doesn't need to possess - or be possessed by - somebody else. This kind of love is comfortable anywhere. It just can't help spilling out onto other lives.
The Apostle Paul penned what may be the definitive sermon on this genuine love centuries ago. Lately I've been cherishing the J.B. Phillips translation of it, which says in part: "This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience - it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
"Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy....
"Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love never fails" (I Cor. 13).
There's also wonderful wisdom in a chapter called "Marriage" in Mary Baker Eddy's book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Like Paul's sermon on love, this chapter is more about the individual's relationship to humanity at large than it is about a specialized relationship between just two people.
She wrote: "Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it" (p. 57).
Happiness is found through some understanding and expression of divine Love - unconditional, unchanging, unbiased, eternal Love. The more we begin to understand this Love, the more fulfilling lives we lead, the more we find opportunities to share our talents in the broader context, and the more genuine affection we'll feel for all humanity.
I'm happily married now to a very good old friend. It's a marriage that has allowed us both to grow stronger as individuals - and to help other people, too. But I have to feel that getting married, or finding someone special, isn't the only possible happy ending. Each one of us has the privilege of sharing our uniqueness and affection with a whole world of others.
I will never
nor forsake thee