“Highway Song for Valentine’s Day” by Luci Shaw

This year the lunar calendar has given us a unique confluence of holidays on today’s date: Valentine’s Day, and the first day of Lent. Journalists are really playing up their antithetical nature . . . but maybe the two observances aren’t entirely at odds. After all, Lent is about reconnecting and deepening our intimacy with Love himself.

In the following poem Luci Shaw reflects on how human love, despite bold attestations to the contrary, is often ephemeral, whereas God is a “longer Lover” whose vow to love and to cherish is truly eternal, and is evidenced by daily tokens.

Via dell'Amore, Cinque Terre

“Highway Song for Valentine’s Day” by Luci Shaw

“Kim, I love you — Danny”
roadside graffito

On overhead and underpass,
beside the road, beyond the grass,

in aerosol or paint or chalk
the stones cry out, the billboards talk.

On rock and wall and bridge and tree,
boldly engraved for all to see,

hearts and initials intertwine
their passionate, short-lived valentine.

I’m listening for a longer Lover
whose declaration lasts forever:

from field and flower, through wind and breath,
in straw and star, by birth and death,

his urgent language of desire
flickers in dew and frost and fire.

This earliest spring that I have seen
shows me that tender love in green,

and on my windshield, clear and plain,
my Dearest signs his name in rain.

“Highway Song for Valentine’s Day” is published in Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation by Luci Shaw (Eerdmans, 2006) and is used here by permission of the publisher. Reproduction of the poem without express permission from Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company is a violation of copyright.

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Unlike in her other poems, Shaw uses here a simple, singsongy meter (iambic tetrameter) that evokes the standard Valentine’s Day fare. Hinging the poem at stanza five, she spends the first half musing on the myriad ways in which young couples broadcast their love, and the second half recounting, by contrast, God’s declarations through nature, through miracle, through beauty. With a love both passionate and tender, he romances us. A soft wind, a starry night, the green of spring—these are his love letters.

This poem urges us to open ourselves to this divine wooing. While we’re busy longing and searching for some perfect love, we may be missing the tokens of God’s affection lavished on us right now.

Today, these words or something like them will be spoken by pastors all over the world:

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
Repent and believe the Good News: God longs for you to be whole.

And this scripture read: “Return to the LORD your God, for he is . . . abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13).

We can still celebrate romantic love with our partner—which itself can be a gift and a blessing—but with our foreheads marked with ash, we ought to realize that this love is not ultimate. It is a shadow of a greater, fuller love offered to us from on high, by One who spared no expense in proving it, to the point of giving up his own life. “Greater love has no one than this” (John 15:13a).

And this Lover sends us valentines all year round.

So the next time you’re driving down the highway, caught in a rain shower, remember that you are beloved of God, and that he will never stop reaching out to you, beckoning you into a deeper relationship with him.

Via dell'Amore, Cinque Terre

About the photos: In Cinque Terre, Italy, young couples wanting to declare their eternal love write their names on padlocks and attach them to wire mesh and cables along the Via dell’Amore (Lovers’ Lane). I took these photos in 2009.

Cute-love roundup for Valentine’s Day

The feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 is associated in popular culture with romantic love because of the legendary account of Valentine’s subversive performance of wedding ceremonies in Rome during a national ban in the third century. Wanting to build a strong army, Emperor Claudias II had issued an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people; unmarried soldiers, he thought—who are less concerned with the risks of war—fought better than married ones. Not wanting to deny couples the privilege of marriage, Valentine, a priest, secretly wed them. He was eventually caught, imprisoned, and executed, for this as well as other offenses of a Christian nature.

In honor of our brother’s witness, here are three works of love-themed art—a musical short film, a Latin ballroom dance, and a collection of comics—for you to enjoy with your significant other this Valentine’s Day weekend. Romantic love, of course, has many shades; this is a look at its sweet shade.

Lava by Pixar:

This 2014 computer-animated musical short written and directed by James Ford Murphy tells the story of two Pacific Ocean volcanoes who, after millions of years of waiting, find love. It features the voices of Kuana Torres Kahele as Uku and Napua Greig as Lele: “I lava you,” they sing to a ukelele accompaniment. I’m a sucker for word puns, so this video lights me up.

Samba from Dancing with the Stars:

Choreographed and performed by Maksim Chmerkovskiy with his season 18 celebrity partner, Olympic athlete Meryl Davis, this samba—a dance of Afro-Brazilian origin—is here given a subtle Indian flair, as its soundtrack is “I Wanna Be Like You” from Disney’s The Jungle Book.

Illustrations from Soppy:

In 2014 Philippa Rice published Soppy: A Love Story, a collection of comics inspired by real-life moments she’s shared with her boyfriend, Luke Pearson. Its premise is that love can be found in simple, everyday intimacies, like impromptu cuddling on the couch, brushing your teeth side-by-side, or lending sympathy for a cup of tea gone cold. When I think about the times I treasure most with my husband, they are the sum total of all these understated forms of bonding Rice has highlighted. View a sampling of illustrations from the book at BoredPanda.com.

Philippa Rice illustration
“You can be in the same room without having to do everything together.”
Illustration by Philippa Rice
“Even shopping for food can be exciting.”