I’ve always thought that Japan never got Valentine’s day quite right. There is the giving of chocolates and homemade sweets, but on February 14th it is only the GIRLS who buy the sweets for the BOYS. Then, on March 14th, it is “White Day,” in which the boys/men return the favor with chocolates to the ones who initiated the previous month. Don’t you think it should be the other way around? These poor girls/women need to stick their necks out and be the initiators, without knowing if there is returned interest. Then, even if there isn’t, the guy feels the need to buy and give her chocolates back. Often it is called giri chocolate, or “obligation chocolate”.
Well, I personally know one guy who isn’t minding this tradition too much. Our oldest, Owen, (7 years old), has raked it in this year! Four of his female classmates had their moms drive them over to our home so they could give him a plethora of homemade cookies, chocolates, and boxes.
Owen will also have to be quite busy a month from now with some obligation chocolates…Our family, in preparation for this big day, made a double batch of peanut butter blossoms yesterday to give to neighbors and family friends. It’s been fun to surprise our friends with a more American-style Valentine tradition.
Today, our pastor gave a message about love — how the Father loves us. And it brought to mind one of my favorite quotes of all times, written by J.I. Packer. I think my sister Beth first shared this with me in college. It touched me then; it touches me still. I share it on this day because it is about a love that is not dependent on cultural expectations, or obligation-types of love. It is real – it is deep — it is a love that is infinitely more surprising than any unexpected Valentine cookies. This is the real Valentine.
I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.
This is a momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort–the sort of comfort that energizes. . . in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. . . He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and I am glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my Friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose. . . not merely that we know God, but that He knows us (J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 37).