When my sisters and I were in our teens, we had a tradition every Valentine’s Day.
We pulled out our best stationery and pens. Clustered together, we penned Valentine notes to our future husbands.
Mine tended to be quite flowery, my teenage soul gushing sentiments. Once I addressed the envelope, “To My Love.” Another time I asked my imaginary husband if he dreamed of kissing me–because obviously, I had dreamed of kissing him and why wouldn’t he dream of kissing me? I penned paragraph after paragraph, declaring my faithful love and affection, confessing that I could not wait until we met and hoping it would be this year.
To some of my sisters, my fanciful imagination was too much. But to me, this was simply my expression of love to my unseen man, floating out there somewhere in time and space. I am sure those letters are tucked here and there among my personal letters and souvenirs. If I read them now, I know they would make me laugh so hard I probably would snort. . .for more than one reason.
As Valentine’s Day loomed closer this year, I thought again of those teenage love letters. They were written with hope and faith that someday I would meet a man who loved me, a man I could love in return.
I spent my teen years and my 20s waiting expectantly. Any day now. Any day. He will be standing in the church lobby when our family enters. I will be lugging my instrument or a microphone stand or something. And I will catch his eye. (Because really, who can resist a girl carrying a microphone stand?) Or my family will be holding a week-long meeting at a church somewhere, and I will be chatting with a lady about her daughter’s music lessons, and I will look up and. . .there he is. How long has he been staring at me? Who knows? Does it matter?
But somewhere along the way, I stopped writing those letters. The gushing feelings and emotions evaporated. The Valentine-letter tradition slipped away. I cannot even remember the last time I wrote one.
In my 20s, I watched my sisters go through broken engagements and relationship struggles. I had my own struggles a time or two, although I never came close to engagement. Somehow, the unashamed expectation of finding the one became shameful. And then I found myself single in my 30s. . .at a place in life I never dreamed of when I was 16. I look back at those care-free days with scorn.
What were you thinking? I scold myself. You dreamed, but what good did it do you? Does God even care?
Although we are officially past Valentine’s Day, this question lingers in the air, haunting me. When you do not see God working, how easy it is to believe that He does not see, that He does not care. I say to Him:
“God, just in case you forgot, I live in —. And my address is —. I just wanted to make sure you knew. . .because, you know. . .you have so many people to take care of, you may have forgotten me over here.”
I think many singles feel like God has forgotten them, and especially during the month of February. Once again, they are reminded in a vivid way that their dreams are still unfulfilled. I have noticed that among singles in church, it is unacceptable to admit that we may be struggling, even bitter. Outwardly we smile and pretend, while inwardly we are hurting and raw. Feeling forsaken, we think no one sees us or cares about us. I hesitate to even approach this topic. After all, who wants to admit what no one wants to admit?
But when I feel the most forsaken, I am reminded that Hagar would understand.
Genesis 16 tells us she also wondered if God had forgotten her while she wandered in the wilderness. But when the angel of the Lord found her by the fountain on the way to Shur, she realized she was not forsaken. God spoke to her and gave her a special promise.
And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? Genesis 16:13
One of God’s names is “El-Roi”, which means “The God Who sees me.” From what I can tell, this is the only story in Scripture where this particular name is used. And it was spoken by an Egyptian slave who felt forsaken.
El-Roi. The God Who sees me. Somehow, in the midst of what seems like a wilderness, this thought comforts me. God sees me. He sees you.
I will not sugarcoat things for you. I will not say you will find someone this year or next year or even the next year. I will not encourage you to write Valentine letters to an unknown person. (Unless, of course, you want to.)
But I will say He is the God Who sees.
Every letter, every dream.