Against my better judgment, and in a nose-thump to Women’s Health, I ate a huge piece of chocolate cake late last night. And what’s more, thanks to that wonderful megaphone called Facebook, I let the whole world know. I got some fun comments, but the best was “It can be a precursor for giving up chocolate for Lent, which means you can have another piece tomorrow. After all, it’s not every year that Valentine’s occurs the day after Ash Wednesday.”
Well, if you put it that way, then please pass me another helping of chocolate-smothered heart-attack-on a plate. I have been given official Facebook permission to indulge!
But my FB friend is right on target! Seriously, what kind of cosmic irony is going on here that Valentine’s Day falls right after Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent? We give up all our vices the day before the day made to indulge so many of them! Lent! When half of the world swears off chocolate, alcohol, sex, and sweets. In terms of Valentine’s celebration, I’d say those four are the poison tips in Cupid’s little bag of arrows. I suppose your sweetie could always give you a granola bar, Martinelli’s sparkling cider, a peck on the cheek and some tic tacs and call it a day. Woo-hoo! Woo-lame!
(BTW: check out the top 100 things that people sacrifice for Lent.)
The juxtaposition of these two days got me thinking about the different types of love represented by the Lenten Season and Valentine’s Day and why we need both. It’s like a Cupid Meets Jesus reality show. The naked, little imp with wicked mischief in his heart goes toe-to-toe with the Man who Walks on Water. But maybe they aren’t as diametrically opposed as they initially seem.
Yes, you can be a curmudgeon and grouse that Valentine’s Day is just a 24-hour infomercial for Hallmark. Of course it is sappy, silly and artificial. Go ahead: be a non-conformist and don’t buy into all the claptrap. Out of principle refuse to buy flowers or candy for your honey. “Hey: I love you and I don’t need the calendar to tell me when to love you.” You can do that, but you will pay, Boy, will you pay!
Or you can look at it as a day to stop and Shower the People you Love with Love. Because, let’s face it, we aren’t very good at doing that. Life is chaotic. You have a work project that’s due. The kids have an ortho appointment. You have a blog post to write. Sometimes it really does take an external force like Hallmark to slap us upside the head so we stop, open our mouths (and wallet) and let the love language flow.
Valentine’s love is pink like Cupid’s cheeks. It’s frilly, and says for one day, “I see you. I love you. Be my Valentine.” If you are under 20, it’s candy hearts that say, “Text Me,” or “Love You,” if you are from an older generation! It’s roses and dinner out. We need that. We need the light-heartedness of the day to bring some fun into the ho-humness of life. We need the electric jolt of passion to keep life thrilling.
But, we can’t live on passion alone. Trust me: you don’t make it to 25 years of marriage because you are soooooo passionately in love.
We also need a deep, abiding love that doesn’t depend on us. We aren’t deep people who like to abide. We are shallow and like to flee. Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent, the 40 days leading to Easter, the ultimate expression of God’s deep, abiding love for us.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son.”
– 1 John 4:10
Lent is red with Christ’s shed blood. It is grounded, and says for eternity, “I see you. I love you. Be my child.” It’s the invitation of the Lover of our hearts into relationship. We need that. We need the reality of the Lenten season to bring hope into the brokenness of life. We need the sweetness of God’s grace to make life worth living.
I am glad Lent and Valentine’s are both happening this week. They are the dynamic duo of love; the one-two punch that says we need the entire love spectrum to thrive, from sweet tart hearts that say, “Please be Mine,” to a cross on Calvary’s hill that says, “You are Mine.”
Eat the entire piece of cake, sprinkle the ashes on your forehead, and celebrate that reality.
How are you celebrating Valentine’s or Lent? Share in the comments below.