It was 1932. The 4th-grade classroom walls were covered with Valentine’s Day hearts, and intricate snowflakes the children had made decorated the windows. Dorothy (my mother) sat at her desk busily putting the finishing touches on her beautiful Valentine’s Day card. She carefully chose a lacy doily that would frame the red heart, and in her very best writing she wrote “Happy Valentine’s Day, Love, Dorothy”. She wanted it to be the most beautiful Valentine in the world. She could hardly wait to give it to her Daddy.
The buzzer rang just as she finished putting the glue around the border. She quickly sprinkled glitter on the edge and the teacher reminded the students that tomorrow was the spelling test. Dorothy gathered her homework papers and quickly exited the room with the other students. She found Elsie, her very best friend, and just as they reached the front of the school, Dorothy realized she accidentally brought her valentine.
“Elsie, wait here! I wanted to leave my valentine in my desk so the glue can dry.” She turned to run back to the classroom, and almost plowed into Billy. Billy had just moved to her school from Iowa, and she hadn’t really had a chance to get to know him. He seemed nice, but he was shy and didn’t talk much. She apologized for running into him, and he shyly smiled and nodded, “That’s okay.”
She quickly returned to her desk. The room was dark, and all the desks looked the same. She knew she was in the 4th row, right in the middle of the classroom, and without paying much attention, she slid the card into her desk and quickly left to meet Elsie so they could walk home together.
The next day Dorothy went to her desk to get her beautiful valentine so she could admire it. She suddenly felt hot and embarrassed. Her valentine wasn’t there! “Oh, no!” she thought to herself. “I must have put the Valentine in someone else’s desk! But who’s?”
She worried all day, wondering who might have found her card. Only the worst scenarios ran through her mind. “What if George got it? He would surely mock her. Or Andrew. No, not Andrew! His family was friends with her family. That would make it awkward. Or Mary. She would show it to her mean friends and would make me into a laughing stock.”
But no matter what, her Valentine was gone, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Dorothy sat at the kitchen table with her grandma as her mother prepared supper. She busied herself addressing the store-bought valentines her mother had gotten for her to give to her classmates. They talked about each classmate as she wrote their names in her very best handwriting. She told her grandma about the beautiful card she had made for Daddy, and how she had to make another one because she left it in the wrong desk. And then she spilled how embarrassed she was and how her life was ruined if the wrong person got her card.
“Rather than think of all the bad things that could have happened to your card, why not pray and trust God to use it?” Grandma suggested. “He cares about even the smallest things, and just like I’ve told you 100 times before, God has everything under control. Even the mean kids need a little kindness sometimes. God can take that innocent mistake and turn it for good.” She always had a way of making Dorothy feel better.
Her grandma recited Romans 8:28. “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
Dorothy thought for a moment, and quickly bowed her head and asked God to use her valentine, just as her grandmother suggested, then continued addressing the cards to each of the boys and girls in her class, careful to save the prettiest for her best friend, Elsie.
The next morning before class started, the children busily deposited their Valentine’s Day cards at each classmate’s desk’s where a shoebox they had decorated with hearts served as their individual valentine’s mailboxes. She could hardly wait until the party that afternoon when they could open their boxes to read all the valentines and notes from the other boys and girls.
When Dorothy opened her box, she found all the regular little valentines, but right in the pile of valentines was the most beautiful valentine she had ever seen. It wasn’t the kind of Valentine that comes in a box for school children. It was a Valentine that was purchased special. Someone had taken time to find this card for her, with sweet words of appreciation. She looked at the signature at the bottom of the card. “Thank you for being kind, from Billy.”
Shy Billy. The new boy that didn’t have many friends yet. His desk was right behind hers. She must have thrown her valentine into his desk in the dark room. She turned around and caught his eye and smiled. He blushed and lowered his eyes in embarrassment.
It was no mystery who received her special valentine any more. She smiled. Her grandmother was right. Her Valentine, although meant for another, was delivered to the one God chose. She thought she put it in the wrong desk, but she realized she really didn’t.
Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” God, in His sovereignty, moves through his obedient servants. So often we have an agenda, and that agenda gets us so far, but God in His love, takes over. The end may be much different than what we intended, but His ways are not our ways, and if we surrender, God will use our attempt and give it a boost. If we just move in obedience, He takes over. There are times when we set out to a plan, (we “plan our way”), but God takes our efforts and makes it hit the target. (He “directs our steps.”)
A video was circulating recently of a basketball star playing with his very young son. As the child throws the ball in the air, the dad gives it a boost, and the ball easily swishes through the hoop. His son thought he made the basket, but the invisible helping hand helped it reach its target.
A prayer of surrender: Dear Father God, we live in an imperfect world, but you are perfect and you see beyond what we can see. I submit my plans to you and ask that you continue to direct my steps so my life will truly impact the world around me for eternity. Bring me peace to rest in you, and even when my attempts fall short, I can trust that you will use my efforts and use my life for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.