This year, the 40 days of Lent began the day before Valentine’s Day. One day after we might choose to “give up” sweets, we are bombarded with chocolates at the office or (if fortunate enough to have someone to love) an invitation to a romantic dinner.
Hearts: Easily Broken
I have a problem with Valentine’s Day – same with Mother’s Day. Both are exclusive holidays, fanned into flame by card-makers and florists, sure to leave a whole host of people in its wake. If you are alone, you’re apt to feel even more lonely, left out, and dejected. If you are without (love in the one case, a child in the other), you have nothing to celebrate.
College girls band together with their dateless girlfriends to arm themselves against the sickening barrage of squeals as yet another delivery of roses is made. And, let’s face it, often the recipients seem to gloat. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against romance. I love my husband and love celebrating our marriage. But why confine that to February 14th? And why flaunt it to others?
What happened to the inclusive elementary school example of passing out dollar-store valentines to every single classmate? Or the International Women’s Day model that celebrates all women, regardless of reproductive status?
Before I really start ranting, let me get back to the odd pairing of Valentine’s Day and Lent. On Valentine’s Day, the lucky one hears (or reads) words extolling their praise. “You are beautiful.” “My life is empty without you.” “You hold the key to my heart.” The recipient feels loved, delighted in, and needed. And probably wants others to know they are loved, delighted in, and needed.
But during Lent, we acknowledge our own need. Our sinfulness. Our broken lives that need fixin’. We choose to deny ourselves and focus on Someone else instead. It is a solemn season of humility, of reflection, of stillness. We settle our souls and refocus our hearts in the weeks leading up to the Cross.
We might give up something that’s hard to do without. This self-denial isn’t just for one day either. The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday and extends 40 days, commemorating the amount of time the devil tempted Jesus in the desert.
Jesus withstood by countering each temptation with the Word of God. For Lent to be most meaningful, don’t stop at removing something from your life; replace time spent in self-pursuits with meditation on that same Word. Ashes symbolize repentance; turning from our sin involves turning to the One who forgives.
It’s not about me at all. Nothing of what’s important in life is.