Uh-oh. Cupid, we have a problem. Or do we?
For the first time in 73 years, Ash Wednesday will fall on February 14th otherwise known as St. Valentine’s Day. For those of us whose Christian faith tradition includes the Lenten season of fasting and prayer, this awkward conflict between sacred and secular poses a potential clash of heart and spirit. Will Christians have to choose between Love or Lent?
Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten Season, that 40 day period when Christians focus on prayer, fasting and spiritual practices that helps to strengthen our walk and deepen our relationship with God. Unfortunately, Lent is too often seen as simply a time to add more burdens to our life e.g. “what are you giving up for Lent?” As one author put it, it is very easy to be consumed by the negative, so much so, you are in danger of becoming religious.
Yes, Lent, viewed as a season of sacrifice, should be a time for reflection, repentance, renewal, and reconciliation. Such a time when the grace of God working through spiritual disciplines trains our spiritual appetites to desire the good, cultivating a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Still, the focus can also be a positive one. From that perspective, what better day than February 14th for Ash Wednesday to be observed.
Lent really is a time for us to fall in love again with the Lover of our soul.
But wait a minute! How does this special day of fasting jive with chocolate and flowers on Cupid’s annual festival of love? Have all the men in the world just breathed a sigh of relief? Do they get a pass this year on gifts for their beloved wife or girlfriend? Not so fast guys!
Here are a few suggestions from an Old Romantic to help you reconcile the kickoff to Lent with what some consider to be the most romantic day of the year.
- Consider going out to dinner on the night of February 13th.
- Make the gift to your beloved one of listing the actions you are going to take in the coming year to make her life easier.
- Attend Lenten service together. The couple that prays together, stays together. If this is not a habit for you, consider using this time as a kick-off to daily or weekly devotions with your spouse and family.
- Guys, make a simple meatless dinner for your wife (and family) that evening.
- While enjoying a simple meal together, share how you fell in love, recount your memories of your first date and why you decided there would be a second one.
- Take a long walk together and leave the cell phones at home.
- List 5 things about your spouse for which you are grateful, putting them in writing as a gift.
So is the confluence of holiday and holy day a real conflict or an opportunity to be creative? After all, loving God and your spouse are not mutually exclusive. Loving the former should help with loving the latter.
Wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Ash Day!
PS. Don’t forget, Easter falls on April 1st, a great time to begin being a Fool for Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:10)
PPS. I was a widower for six years, so I know that for some, Valentine’s Day can be one given to pensive sadness. Might I kindly suggest you spend time as I did, reminiscing joyfully at the blessing that your spouse was for you. Do not be consumed by what you have lost rather be overwhelmed with gratitude for what you had, however short of time that may have been. Peace.