I came across this leftover Valentine’s Day decoration during my Sunday photowalk, and it struck me as a fascinating subject. At first glance this decoration, celebrating our cultural trope of “love,” looks like any number of the gaudy February decorations created to make couples feel insufficient 1. Upon closer inspection, however, this decoration tells a different story.
The paint on the heart is fading, and rust has begun to emerge on both the heart proper and the wings with which it’s adorned. A rectangle is found on the heart’s face, giving the impression of a band-aid covering a recent wound. This decoration is broken in, almost to the point of looking like it could break down. But it’s still recognizable, it’s still a decoration celebrating love. It may not be shiny, or perfect, or unfettered with the weathering of seasons – but it’s still there.
This love has character.
This is what I image love looks like for couples during the era of sleepless nights and poopy diapers 2. This is what love looks like when other folks surround us in a time of grief and let us be while not letting us be alone. This is what love looks like when friends tell us we’re being creeps, and yet still want to be our friends. This is what love looks like when the kids are going through adolescence and parents don’t hang their children out the window by their ankles 3. This is what love looks like when people who are frightened meet compassion instead of condescension. This is what love looks like when we’re so angry with someone that we can’t even look at them, only to remember our shared bonds and say, “I’m sorry.”
Love transforms us. Sometimes with the hurts people inflict on us, but more with the hurts we experience on behalf of others. Anyone who has ever dared to love isn’t free of scars. Love leaves us bruised, it leaves us weathered, proverbial rust begins to show in our lives.
But love never fails 4. And the only way to avoid the scars love leaves on us is to not love at all. And that’s a price that is too great to pay.
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13 NET)
- You know the kind. The ones where a couple is up to their neck in life, but feel obligated to do something “romantic” on Valentine’s day because our economy tells us to. ↩
- Which, my wife and I loved so much we opted for a second tour of duty. Yes, that was an intentional pun. ↩
- The first story, folks. Or maybe the second if there was an airbag below. ↩
- Many modern Bible translations will translate 1 Corinthians 13:8, the verse from which this sentence comes, as “love never ends.” It’s a more grounded translation of the sentence, but it leaves some of the poetic feel to the passage aside. Ironically the NIV, which is a translation that has a reputation for trying to make everything in the Bible smoothed out, leaves the more poetic translation in place. The actual Greek word would be translated woodenly as “falling,” but in this context is means to collapse or fall to pieces. Yes, I’m a nerd. ↩