Heart-shaped pillows. Teddy bears who send kisses. Movies which exalt the magic of love at first sight. Girls receiving jewel-priced flower bouquets at work. “I love you more than ever” banner from Ju to Ro in front of your house. That soft, mellow voice on the radio wishing everybody a happy Valentine’s Day “from the bottom of my heart.”
I’m an irreparably romantic guy myself, but part of me feels compelled to react: aaaaahhhh!!!!! (Stumping of feet and pulling out of hair). A tsunami of sugary romance floods an otherwise fine day, and we are all summoned to think cute thoughts, carry baby pandas on the bus, and open our chest’s to Cupid’s arrow. Our world feels enchanted, true, even for a day, but couldn’t it be a less pinky enchantment? Our air is infused with flower aromas, even if polluted air was good enough, and our ears get to hear celebrity gossip, who are the cutest guys in the office, and about Matt’s plans (Matt is one of the cute guys) to propose in the evening, hiding the diamond ring inside a chocolate cake to be discovered while an uniformed band plays “The Way You Look Tonight.” Not to mention those of us who are single, and have to sit behind to the panda on the bus and endure giggles and that minute-long kiss in the seat ahead. (I’m considering taking a Swiss knife in my pocket, so I can at least discretely remove the eyes of the panda while the kiss goes on).
Jokes aside, why are we – even perpetual romantics like me- repelled by such Valentine’s Day sugar? Some people would point that the problem is the excess: honey-sweet, chocolate-sprinkled, marshmallow-embedded, cascade of caramel Valentine’s Day. Good point. Less sugar, folks. Others would speak against the commercialization of love and the commodification of intimacy. Good point too. Still others would point to baby talk – “my little sweety strawberry pie!” – and defend how mature love should be, well, mature. Another good point.
But my guess is that sugarest portion that repels us from Valentine’s Day sugar is over-shared intimacy. You know, that six-meters banner “I love you forever!!!” from Ju to Ro didn’t need to meet my precious eyes. That was meant for the two of them; outside of their shared intimacy it does not have the same meaning and sounds, if we may choose a more salty taste, cheesy. I haven’t met Ju yet; I haven’t been bewitched by her smile; I haven’t played pranks and done laundry and watched horror movies by her side so that her spirit could impregnate into mine, and command my attention, and so that those words “I love you forever!” could lift my soul to the highest heaven and make me feel the luckiest man alive. I’m sure Ro feels this way, but I don’t. For me Ju is a name; for him she is a person.
And I guess that’s how many of us feel when we hear about God’s love. Our sugar-thermometer rises to diabetes-level when we hear the words, “God loves you.” It sounds artificial; we think more of heart-shaped pillows than of the thunderous presence that summons everything into himself. Declarations of God’s love have been bathed in too much sugar; they have met us in mere bumper-stickers and lost the connection to real life.
Valentine’s Day overwhelms us with its sugar, true, but we still know that true romance is possible. In a similar way, just because the words “God loves you” meet us in children stories and bumper-stickers it does not follow that, in fact, God’s love for us is not true and real. They may sound artificial, but because we still miss the connection that makes those words meaningful. Maybe we are yet to meet God, and be enthralled by his face, and play pranks and do laundry and watch horror movies by his side, so that his Spirit moves and impregnates us to the core, and so that the mere thought that God loves me – God, the God behind all else, the fountain of all life, the severity that adjusts galaxies and knows with perfection – that love, that impossible, undeserving love, the mere thought of it lifts my soul to the highest heaven and makes me sing aloud on the street, even if it looks sugary to others.