This year February 14 brings both Lent and Valentines. What could be more opposite? Valentine’s Day often includes rhyming poems, heartfelt cards, generous professions of love, scrumptious chocolates, bright flowers, special “date nights,” and a bit of splurging - physically, romantically, even financially. On the other hand, or more like way down on the other end of the spectrum, Lent begins. Lent arrives chock full of fasting, giving up, and avoiding certain luxuries. It’s a time to concentrate on a need for repentance and receive (or witness others receiving) ash - black, dirty, and dismal.
It should be “illegal” to have both celebrations share a single day! Right? Of course, those who know me are thinking… here it comes… Well you’re right... I beg to differ...
A dear friend recently told me they were looking forward to the season of Lent. The comment took me by surprise. As we continued to visit, realized what they meant. For them, Lent isn’t about sacrifice and longing for chocolate on Easter. It’s not about giving up things they enjoy. Instead, it’s a time to slow down, pause, and reflect. Far from the hurriedness, business, and demands of winter holidays (wonderful as they are) Lent is stuck in the humdrum pre-spring cold, gray, rain, and overall “blah” - sandwiched right between “after the fun of winter” and “before the promise of spring.” For many of us there’s less to do… no decorating, preparing of feasts, no planting, summer picnics or sports. Some of us even feel “down in the dumps” around the end of February from a lack of bright days and joyous activities, right? I know I’ve felt so…
In that case, I agree. I believe there is a time for every season and purpose under heaven. With that conviction in mind, I consider... Lent is a time to re-focus, re-adjust, and re-ground - forty full days to pause and ponder. I envision a bowling lane after two less accurate throws, half the pins down, half standing, split and scattered. What happens when I hit that reset button? Ah, a clean alley with a tidy set of pins, ready for the next move. Resets are important!
In Lent I reflect on the life of Jesus. I remember His teachings, suffering, miracles, lessons, compassion, and agony. I find deeper value year after year. Where did He and all He represents originate? What was it all for? LOVE; love pure and simple. It all has meaning. Lent is not about deprivation - especially deprivation for the sake of suffering. That which I choose to “give up” is not a denial I perform with remorse. Instead I forgo that which keeps me from a healthy, serene, positive place. As I mature (well, enter another decade), I discover how deeper spirituality and moving closer to God in no way means exclusion or deprivation - ever. Although it may include challenge, it still means embracing life and love; it means growth, understanding, compassion, and fresh goals - what I dare call, “honing in on the holy” or “being showered with grace.”
Grace surrounds us. Every day. However, the busier we get, the more anxious, impatient, stressed.... the more we focus on how each person, aspect, and situation prevents us from getting what we think we want or where we think we should be going. As we step back, slow down, listen, and reflect, we tend to find more meaning, more depth, greater truth, and a freeing peace.
If I’m able to welcome Lent as a way to examine and rediscover my relationship with the Creator, what better day to begin than the “day of love?” God is ultimate and infinite love; all He does, desires, and sends us is love - in hundreds of different forms and venues... Maybe this year I will relish the Lenten season to contemplate life, the loving graces I receive, and how the Trinity is truly a part of it. Love is the root of all that is good - of hope, faith, sharing, compassion, peace, joy - yup, all goodness.
Looking at it that way, I’m happy to re-ground and re-plant myself deep in the dirt of Lent and Love!
One of the scribes who heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
And a personal favorite:
As God’s chosen, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…. And over all these put on love, that is the unity that binds the rest. Let the peace of Christ rule your hearts. And be thankful.
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.