From Ashes to Heart Shaped Chocolates and Rose Bouquets
Last night was Ash Wednesday. We gathered in mostly quiet and mostly dimly lit meeting spaces. We reflected on sin, repentance, and forgiveness. We reflected on fragility, brokenness, and death.
We were reminded that from dust we came, and to dust we shall return.
But we did not remember death for death’s sake – but for life’s sake. We did not name our sin for the sake of shame, but for the sake of turning to forgiveness, grace, and new life. And when we all went home, or to work, or to wherever we went after we received that ashy reminder, eventually we washed it off. That’s as it should be, but the question for us is – do we hold on to what are to remember?
We were reminded, but do we remember – today, next week, in three months from now?
Enter into a new day and we traded our ash for valentines. We were told – in thousands of mini-messagings – to buy our loved one(s) chocolates, and cards that cost what books used to, and large bouquets of flowers (because nothing says I love you like empty calories, over-priced overly sentimental thoughts someone you didn’t even know wrote on your behalf that you may not even have read in it’s entirely, and already dying plants).
Okay – so I’m not at all sentimental, and really not at all romantic. Trust me – my wife knew this before she married me, in fact she married me in spite of it. Thank you GOD! (I do realize how lucky I am.)
But I’m reminded of all sorts of inconsistencies about this day. For instance by tradition it’s a day when guys buy girls stuff… what? So only guys are supposed to be romantic and sentimental towards their sweethearts? (Love is a mutual relationship – no one party to the relationship is to carry all the load in any part of it.) And isn’t teaching men to be romantic kind of like trying to teach a cow to dance? Now yes, we should in fact teach all cows to dance. And men – who are less inclined to remember signs of affection towards their loved ones – need reminding more often than women (thought this isn’t a universally true claim). But does being romantic because someone told us be romantic really mean all that much?
I was in a conversation recently where we were talking about what makes people feel welcomed in a church. The speaker said the number one thing that makes people feel at home and likely to come back is when someone they don’t know comes and speaks to them during their worship visit… but there is a catch. Passing the Peace doesn’t count. It doesn’t count if the person was told to do it, or if the person welcoming looks like its “their job” to do it.
This is a powerful reminder to our welcome and care in the church. It is also a powerful reminder about care in all our relationships. By all means buy your loved one a card and sign of affection today, but don’t think that is the end (and I hope that is not the beginning) of how you express your love. (And maybe try writing your own card… and doing in three weeks from not when he/she least expects it).
I’m sure my wife has a card waiting for me tonight… but one of my favorite points of many days is when out of the blue for no reason I can ever discern I get a text from my wife and it simply says: Love you! She’s great at it – and it often makes my day, reminds me to live as one who is loved and loves in return. That is far more powerful than ash… a card… or bunch of flowers. She isn’t doing it because someone told her to.. she does it because it’s true and she thinks it important that I know it… and you know what? She’s right.
Love you too!