February 14th 2018 – It’s not every year that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day.
Valentine’s Day, a day that is looked upon by people all over the world as a time to celebrate love – to do something special for that one incredible person in your life, to propose, get married, go on a very expensive date, eat fancy food with the love of your life, go on a trip or maybe just Netflix and chill with him or her all day…
And then there’s Ash Wednesday, a day that marks the beginning of a mourning period of 40 days – or atleast that’s how most people view it. Ash Wednesday, to most of us who recognize Lent, is basically another New Year’s Eve. It’s a day where we make resolutions all over again, but this time, knowing that we only have to keep it for 40 days until Easter comes. We give up (or plan on giving up) meat, or alcohol and cigarettes, or our favourite soda drink, chocolates. Some of us take a break from our social media addiction, and others give up on ‘being angry’ – all this for a full forty days until Easter comes and we have permission to go back to our old lifestyles, because you know – that’s just how faith works.
Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday – two very different occasions, observed in two very different ways. But they do have one thing in common. Well, actually, they have a lot in common, but I’m just going to focus on one.
Both, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, were never designed to be observed the way we do today.
Valentine’s Day was the celebration of martyrs who were persecuted for their faith – martyrs who poured out their love to the very soldiers that were torturing them. Ash Wednesday was meant to be a period of fasting and reflection – a period of leaning in closer to God, the same way Jesus did before He began His ministry – a ministry that led Him to die a horrifying death on a Cross – a death that saved the world; and a salvation that led saints (one of them being Valentine) to lay down their lives to be tortured, because they knew it was worth it.
And that’s another thing both these days have in common – sacrifice.
We have made love a quick, cheap thing. Yes, the dates are expensive, and so are the gifts, but how many of us don’t have selfish motives behind either of these?
Most of us run away from the thought of sacrifice – from the thought of inconvenience to ourselves. And yet, that is what both these days call us to do – to choose inconvenience, to take the risk, to listen to what the other person has to say no matter how boring it might be, even if it’s about her retelling the story of Gilmore Girls…even if it’s actually watching Gilmore Girls with her.
Some of us are thinking about Ash Wednesday and wondering what we’re going to give up this Lent, what we’re going to sacrifice. Here’s a thought – give up your ego! Go to the person who’s hurt you and tell them you forgive them. Go to the person you’ve hurt and tell them you’re sorry, even if you have been hurt the same amount.
Walk up to who you’re angry with and let them know you still love them. Call your parents if you haven’t done that for a while and remind them you still love them, even if it seems so hard right now.
Pray for people – especially those who’ve hurt you, Be honest when you pray. “I don’t really want to pray for this person. I am going to do it anyway. Im going to just consider that this person might need the prayers more than I need to comfort,” is actually an honest prayer.
Walk back to God. He sees you at your messiest and he definitely isn’t looking for you to clean the act before going to him. He’s still waiting with His arms wide open. He’s still calling out to you, and He knows it all – your pain, your anger, your unforgiveness. He knows your hurt. And He knows all about love, all about sacrifice – about Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.
And He wants you…he is speaking to you today out of love. Not out of an attitude of getting better, or perform more. He wants you to put down the act, lay down the lies and just grasp a crazy truth: you are loved. That’s true and only nature. He loves you no matter what you think of yourself.
So go ahead – make that call or write that email. Make that sacrifice! Ash Wednesday is a reminder that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. We’re not going to be here forever.
Like the saints, you might also realize that it’s worth it.