This coming Sunday, Valentine’s Day, is on the event horizon. According to the BBC, Valentine’s Day is thought to have originated from a Roman festival called Lupercalia. This festival was celebrated in mid-February and marked the beginning of Spring. The first Valentine’s Day was in the year 496 CE. Saint Valentine is a saint of the church thought to have died around 270 CE. Eventually, the church wanted to Christianize the previously Roman holiday and associate the celebration with Saint Valentine.
Here’s what I know, I need to get busy on a gift for Ms. Penny. Valentine’s has always been one of those yearly markers on the calendar that help us remember how much we love one another. After 41 years of wedded bliss, we need to take every opportunity to remind each another of our love and continued commitment to the relationship. The first Valentine’s present I ever got Penny was a little grey miniature poodle. She loved that little dog so much. It made me happy to make her happy.
The Wednesday following Valentine’s Day, February 17, is Ash Wednesday and marks Lent’s beginning. Ash Wednesday begins the forty days of spiritual preparation that gets us ready to observe Holy Week and the celebration of Easter. By observing Lent, Christ-followers replicate Jesus’ withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.
Lent is marked by fasting or abstinence from certain foods or activities. Typically people observe Lent by giving something up (a favorite food or TV show) and taking something on (think spiritual disciplines). Ash Wednesday will likely be different this year. One thing is for sure, we will find a way to make it memorable. Lent is vital for us to reconnect with our spiritual selves and develop new habits and step into making healthier choices.
Forty-one years of marriage have taught me a thing or two. Love has its own ebb and flow. When that infatuation stage of love begins to wain, something much more substantial and durable takes its place. Love is having the best interest of the other person at the front of your thinking. Love goes further by acting to make those thoughts a reality. Loves calls us up to become better versions of ourselves and help us achieve what we could not or would not be capable of alone.
I would have never been able to get a degree without Penny supporting my effort to get an education. It required the courage and sacrifice of both of us. Last year I reciprocated by encouraging and supporting her efforts to obtain additional education as well. In each case, the student decided to put in the work. The other partner each chose to act in loving ways to offer the necessary time and attention to allow the endeavor to succeed.
Lent is about making a choice to reaffirm a commitment to follow Jesus. We hope during these forty days to be reminded of God’s love for us and recall the deep feelings we had when we first came to Christ. Lent is an ongoing act of our will. It’s a conscious choice to put our relationship with God first. All of Jesus’ life was an act of love toward humanity; shouldn’t we be ready to reciprocate that love.
Valentine’s Day is a reminder to let that special someone in our lives know that we are thinking of them. When we respond to the love of another person, we say in effect, “I choose you, all over again.” That is precisely what God did for us. He chose to love us when we were unlovable. Even when humanity brought its very worst against the Son of God, Jesus chose to give himself for us. Let’s approach Lent as a way to say to God, “I choose to spend this time with you and to give up something important that I enjoy to make more time to nurture this ongoing love relationship.”
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.-1 John 4:9 NRSV