Last night the congregation I serve held its Ash Wednesday worship service. We prayed, and sang, and received communion together. And then we received the ashes that signify the start of Lent. Finally we reflected in silence on how we would observe Lent, and we asked God for strength and wisdom during this time. I left feeling everything that Ash Wednesday evokes in us: recommitted, penitent, meditative, and finite.
But this morning the world woke up to Valentine’s Day, a day that at first glance may seem pretty antithetical to the previous one. Here is the day when we spend so much on flowers, candy, dinners out, and cards. Those who are in relationships are often so worried about getting it right. My first Valentine’s Day with my now-wife, I called her friends to consult just to make sure I was doing it right. (They assured me, rightfully, that she would care far more about a genuine sentiment than how much I spent.)
But what does any of this have to do with Lent?
I don’t believe that you have to have ever fallen in love in order to understand God’s love. But for those of us who have, and who have had a good experience of it, our love for our partners is often one way to better understand God’s love for us. Just like a parent’s love for a child is a way for them to better understand the way God loves us too. If we were to put all the loving experiences in our lives together, and catalog all the ways we have loved others and been loved ourselves, we still wouldn’t be able to comprehend the enormity or the complexity of the way God loves us. It is too big, and it is too wonderful.
I believe Lent is about learning how to love. In Lent we try to better love our neighbors. We try to better love our God. And we even try to better love ourselves; God’s beloved. If Valentine’s Day helps us to do that, then it has a place in faith, and it has a place in Lent. May God’s love bless you especially this day, and may it bless all whom you love.