We find a rather unusual calendar clash on Wednesday. For the first time since the 1940s, 14th February 2018 is both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.
Valentine’s day; the day we celebrate the love we have for our nearest and dearest, the one day to get all slushy and romantic with our partner – roses and candlelight dinners and the chance to say ‘I Love You’.
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, where traditionally we hear the words ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return’ as our foreheads are marked with ashes.
The day we are invited to remember our failings, where we have missed the mark, times of selfishness, greed, laziness, anger. The times we have hurt others, acted thoughtlessly. This is the day we are invited not to brush them aside, or cover them up, or pretend they didn’t happen, but to consider them carefully and honestly. To declare them to ourselves and to God.
Which all sounds as if it will be a very gloomy and unromantic Valentine’s Day.
Or does it?
Ancient wisdom and modern psychology both show us that while this kind of examination may be painful, it is an essential part of our ability to make and maintain healthy relationships, enabling us to flourish and become all that we were meant to be. And what the Christian tradition adds to this is access to unconditional, deep and eternal Love from our Creator.
Anyone who loves another person knows both the cost and delight of love, that the joy and the pain of love are two sides of the same coin. Love is what holds and sustains us, giving us the strength to look with honesty and clarity at ourselves. And it is then that we discover that those things which weigh us down, the guilt and burdens we carry with us can be laid aside, as we realise that we are not our failings.
Our true identity, goes beyond the things we do, or say, or think, into our essential goodness at the core of our being. Love looks through our failings and sees us, our true, beautiful, beloved Self.
And so, this Wednesday, when Dust meets Love, I invite you to consider the enduring and sustaining power of the Love that gives us the courage to look deeply within ourselves, to lose all that no longer serves us, so we may grow and flourish, becoming all we were meant to be.
Rev’d April Beckerleg