How beautiful you are, my love; how very beautiful! Your eyes are doves. Song of Solomon 4:1a (NRSV)
When my daughter, Erin, was a baby, the Neal family cared for her while I worked. I say the “family” because though Mrs. Neal was the actual caregiver, the entire family gave my baby love. One example of that love was the game Mrs. Neal’s husband, “Papa,” taught Erin when she was not quite a year old. He would hold her, look her in her eyes and say “sweet eyes,” and then bat his eyelids. She would grin and imitate him by fluttering her little eyes. We got such joy from watching her return his affection by showing him her “sweet eyes.” That game was symbolic of the love and care both Erin and I received from Mrs. Neal, Papa, and the family. The game was for fun, but the feelings were real.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone for another year. All the symbolic gestures of love and care have been sent—or not—and we’re getting on with it until next year. But let’s stop a minute. As one who loves all the mushy symbolism and sentimental words stamped out on candy hearts that come with Valentine’s Day, I think we need to pay more attention to the underlying meaning—what is real behind the sentiment. We long for attachment, for connection, for that loving look, that gesture that brings joy to our lives and in some small way reminds us that we are loved by another person.
So, whether you love or ignore Valentine’s Day, may I offer you another loving expression of joy and connection: sweet eyes. Rather than wait for Valentine’s Day next year to experience the joy of feeling special or to avoid the letdown of once again feeling that you are the one who did not get the most valentine cards in elementary school, give yourself or someone else “sweet eyes.” Walk into a room, fill it with your big smile, flash your glowing eyes. Give someone a hug. Kiss a loved one to let them know how much you appreciate them. Then, of course, remember that God’s love for you transcends an annual celebration. You have access to the perfect peace, the unspeakable joy, and the everlasting love of Jesus Christ whenever you show loving-kindness to yourself and others.
Remember, loving yourself is just as important as loving others (Mark 12:31). Begin with a simple action. This is what I did. I took a “selfie” in my cowboy hat (you can do something like this or choose something that brings you joy) and I told myself how beautiful I look, I told myself “I love you,” and then I fluttered my eyes and gave myself sweet eyes. I became my own valentine. I will sing a love sonnet to myself with as much passion as the poet sings to the beloved in the Song of Solomon. You are your own valentine. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you they love you when God has already given you permission to love yourself. You are beautiful. Not only that, you have sweet eyes.
My Daily Joys (Are you writing, thinking about, or practicing your daily joys?)
- My 10-gallon cowboy hat—I know it looks big, but I love it!
- Crawling into freshly laundered sheets
- Valentine’s Day everything: red decorations, candy hearts, chocolates with gooey centers, greetings of “Happy Valentine’s Day”
- Buying Valentine’s candy on sale the day after Valentine’s Day
- Discovering that I like brussels sprouts if they are sautéed, not boiled
- First watermelons are in the stores and cost only $4.98 each—not bad for wintertime
- Found gas station with gas that’s only $1.99/gallon