By Lisa Rieck

Singleness and Sainthood on St. Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day (again).

I’m single (still).

And the way I see it, I have two choices for how to spend my day.

I can be bitter (like the winter has been here in Wisconsin).

Or I can be a saint.

The day does commemorate a saint, after all. One man named Valentine (or maybe two different men with the same name—one from the second century and one from the fifth century) who became a martyr. Very little is known about him, but he is still widely recognized and celebrated as a saint.

The Church has continued to declare men and women “saints” in a number of ways. But it’s harder to come by the official title today. A martyr’s death alone won’t get you there. (And, just so we’re clear, the chocolate and hearts and cards with your name on them are not guaranteed to follow; that all came about much later at the hand of an English poet.) There’s an official process, created in AD 1234 and modified in years since, for being named a saint. People have to be able to prove that your life was marked by some really admirable, beautiful, and inspiring qualities and events.

So, taking my cue from that process, here’s what I need to work on to be considered a saint (in any sense of the word):

1. Loving Jesus more than anyone or anything else.

2. Living sacrificially.

3. Taking risks for Jesus.

4. Being virtuous by exhibiting such traits as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. (And no, I didn’t come up with that list myself.)

5. Practicing deep compassion for others.

6. Asking God to do impossible things—and expecting miraculous answers.

7. Knowing the Bible (i.e., getting my theology right) and living by its teachings.

Clearly, I will not have time to be bitter.

And these are the things I’ve wanted my life—in singleness and, if it comes, in marriage—to be characterized by all along. These are the qualities I want to spend my days pursuing. Including today.

In fact, the list reminds me of some of the positives of being single; my unmarried state allows me to live some of these out in unique ways. For example, my capacity to love others is broader, with no spouse and children to care for. The silence of my apartment allows me to connect with Jesus whenever I want. I can take some risks (like moving) more easily than others who have families to consider. I’m even thankful for the patience I’m learning as I wait in the midst of unfulfilled, God-given desires, knowing that every season of life involves some kind of waiting and thus needs a deeper kind of patience.

So this is my exhortation to the single among us on Valentine’s Day, and every day: Spend your time and energy on these things—on knowing and loving Jesus, on showing love to others, on becoming the type of people God created humans to be. As we do so, we’ll discover a life that is meaningful and rich and fully alive, like so many of the remarkable saints before us—both the married and the single ones—did.

And if you intentionally practice sacrificial love for your married friends today, in particular, by perhaps volunteering to babysit for free so they can go out on a date—you’ll be well on your way to sainthood.

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Lisa Rieck is a writer and editor on InterVarsity’s communications team.

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