‘I got your back’ love
It’s been an interesting journey through Valentine’s week. We have had Valentine card-making in cafe and in assemblies this week I have spoken to nearly one thousand students about love and friendship. I’ve tried to shift the focus towards celebrating our friendships as well as our couple-love, but the reaction to the cards and to the assemblies has been fairly similar; many people don’t really DO Valentine’s.
Some may buy the cards and flowers and make some awkward comment to their beloved about their undying love for them. Others tell us ‘I’m not just sending a Valentine card because some stupid tradition tells me too’! (BTW I wonder if they feel the same way about the traditions of Christmas or birthdays!) But as we shift the gaze from couple-love to also celebrate friendship-love, it seems many are even less well equipped to DO Valentine’s.
You’d think that Christians, above all people, whose Story is founded and grounded in Love, might be more articulate when it comes to thanking, appreciating and loving our friends – but we can find it all so gawky and ungainly. Perhaps it is our reserved culture; perhaps that’s just an excuse.
Yet our faith teaches us that Love always looks like something, ‘this is how God showed love…’ 1 Jn 4 – maybe Valentine’s is a helpful nudge to tell our friends just what they mean to us.
There is a great scene that captures this awkwardness in the British film, Love Actually. Bill Nighy’s pop star character, Billy Mack, realises that his only true friend in his excessive, roller coaster, pop-star lifestyle has been his faithful manager, Joe.
Billy: I realized that Christmas is… is the time to be with the people you love.
Billy: And I realized that, as dire chance and… and… and fateful cockup would have it, here I am, mid-50s, and without knowing it I’ve gone and spent most of my adult life with a… with a chubby employee. And… and much as it grieves me to say it, it… it might be that the people I love is, in fact… you.
Joe: Well, this is a surprise.
Billy: I left Elton’s [party] … in order to hang out with you.
Joe: Well, Bill…
Billy: It’s a terrible, terrible mistake, Chubs, but you turn out to be the BLEEP love of my life. And to be honest, despite all my complaining, we have had a wonderful life.
What follows is as beautiful as it is funny. They give one another a nervous, tentative man-hug. Neither of them is very adept in hugging, but that makes it all the more touching. It’s an imperfect attempt to express something of the deep bonds of friendship between them. It’s what the musician John Mayer refers to when he says “I don’t mean like Roman candle firework, Hollywood hot pink love, I mean like ‘I got your back’ love”.
Maybe it’s time to get over our awkwardness and express to our friends just how much their ‘I got your back’ love means to us.