Modern society fuels a very dangerous misunderstanding about love. Nothing exhibits this misconception better than the commercially fabricated holiday we call Valentine’s Day. Each year, by demanding grand displays, elaborate gestures, expensive gifts, and public confessions as proof of love and affection, society has normalized a very false concept of what love means. The entire concept of Valentine’s Day fuels vanity, not love. And vanity permeates society’s prevailing approach to modern dating.
THE VANITY OF DATING
Modern society has embraced a set of standards we have come to expect when it comes to finding love. In dating, we are all obsessed with the concept of “the chase”, often valuing its own gratifications over its intended outcome. We want to be pursued and enjoy the pursuit. We like to make others work to get to know us and we work hard to get to know others. Being pursued fulfills our desire for affirmation, validates our self-worth, and assures us that we are worthy of love. We enjoy the pursuit because catching the object of our desire fuels our pride while validating our own notion of self-worth.
But do we even want love? Do we desire intimacy above all else? Are we willing to come quietly, gently, and softly into a relationship without expecting a lavish display of fireworks, a dramatic confession, expensive gifts, or expecting the other party to give chase? We are all worthy and deserving of love because God tells us that we are. We should never have to prove ourselves worthy of anyone else’s love. Neither we should we expect anyone else to prove themselves worthy of receiving ours. And if we do, then we do not understand love in the first place. It’s tragic really…
Expecting someone else to prove his or her worth to us does nothing but fuel our own vanity, stifling love itself. Our vanity tells us that love must be earned, not freely given. But this concept of love is a selfish one filled with nothing but self-gratification. Love costs us nothing, so why do we try to sell it at a cost?
When you begin a relationship with someone new, someone who you don’t know yet and who doesn’t know you, our actions are guided by a need to impress them, grabbing their attention. We doll ourselves up, flex our muscles, and lead with our most impressive qualities hoping the other person recognizes how great we are. We often rely on flashy, grand gestures during introductions and early stages of dating, but they do not create intimacy. Fulfilling and lasting relationships are sustained through an earnest and persistent desire to know and understand the other person’s heart and reveal your heart to them. Our relationship with God is no different.
God often presents himself in big, dramatic ways, using glorious displays of His power and might to grab the attention of nonbelievers to show them He is God Almighty. He did so before the Exodus from Egypt, hardening Pharaoh’s heart again and again so that He could show the Israelites and the Egyptians that He is God. The ten plagues were dramatic, frightening, and powerful, but He didn’t stop there. As Pharaoh pursued the Israelites, God appeared to the people through the strong winds, dark clouds, and pillar of fire as He parted the Red Sea in dramatic fashion. When the Israelites turned their backs on God, He appeared to them at Mt. Sinai in a thick cloud complete with thunder and lightening before giving Moses the Ten Commandments. When the people began worshipping the false gods (again), God send down fire from Heaven to consume Elijah’s offering at Mt. Carmel. But while God pursues nonbelievers and His wayward people in great and powerful ways… He whispers to those who love Him.
New believers are drawn to the power and fearful wonder of God. Before God can bring us into a relationship with Him, He must first convince us to believe in Him and His existence before waiting for our surrender. But love is another thing entirely. Love requires intimacy. Once we enter into a relationship with God, only then can He begin to reveal His heart to us and increase our understanding of His ways, plans, and desires. God desires intimacy with us. He does not take pleasure from having to impress us first and persuade us to want to get to know Him. His powerful signs and displays of glory are merely a means to an end. God doesn’t just want us to believe in who He is… He wants us to love Him for it!
As believers, we often make the mistake of expecting God to reveal Himself to us in big ways and forget to listen for the intimate whispers He speaks in to confide in us. Just as we expect a significant other to revert back to the big and flashy methods they used to impress us at the beginning of the relationship. Our vanity and insecurities lead us to desire boisterous and exciting reassurance in what God is, instead of the quiet and comfortable intimacy of who God is. We often make the mistake of desiring the show that God puts on for us, and in doing so miss out on the true intimacy He desires for us and from us. After we fall in love with God, He doesn’t need to shout to get our attention or show-off His power to intimidate, persuade, or impress us. While God is indeed almighty and powerful beyond compare, his terrifying and awe-inspiring ways are not why we love him. We love God for His heart.
As Elijah hid in the cave at Mt. Sinai, God spoke to him not in a strong wind, or in an earthquake, or in a fire, but rather in a low whisper. Elijah loved God fiercely, so God didn’t need to appear to him in a loud, powerful, or mighty way. With those who love Him, God doesn’t need to prove His worth and power, because they believe in Him already. With those who love Him, God need only whisper and be who He truly is.
A TALE OF TWO LOVE STORIES
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I have been reflecting on my own understanding of modern dating and seeking love in today’s world. A friend recently asked me what type of man I was attracted to. And if I’m being honest, my immediate answer included a long list, full of required adjectives. We are all guilty of it. Every one of us could paint a picture of what we think to be our ideal match. While God promises us that His plan for our lives is vastly superior to our own, we are too busy seeking the world’s concept of love to listen and trust Him.
This Wednesday, Valentine’s Day ironically falls on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. As society celebrates love during these two irreconcilable holidays, in vanity or in humility, we are forced to choose. I choose the latter. While recently pondering my own expectations and desires for a future relationship, I promptly deleted every dating app on my phone. While we are busy chasing our own idea of love, God is busy writing a love story for our lives that is greater than any we could ever write ourselves. This year, for the first time, I am entirely content with my singleness on Valentine’s Day. While I was busy seeking the world’s definition of love, I forgot that Love has a name. So if you ask me now what type of man I am attracted to, my once lengthy answer has been shortened to a single word: Jesus.
One of these days, God will bring a man into my life who is perfect for me in every way, has a heart full of Jesus, and will put God first before everything, including me. That relationship is the one I want more than anything. That relationship is worth waiting for, no matter how long it takes. And until then, my heart will be busy seeking God.