It’s a big week. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday – this important day in the Christian calendar that begins the season of Lent. It’s a day we remember our mortality and the ways we continually miss the mark on living as God would have us. This week we begin Lent – 40 days of fasting, prayer, and acts of mercy that end at the foot of the cross and the empty tomb of the resurrected Jesus on Easter.
And, also, this Sunday is Valentine’s Day – this important day for florists and chocolatiers. It’s kind of funny to have a day of such indulgence so close to one that is celebrated by abstaining, but maybe Valentine’s Day can teach us a little something about Lent.
When you talk with someone about what makes a lasting relationship, I doubt that they’ll say that the essential building block is long-stem roses. While extravagance and gift-giving can be beautiful expressions of love, relationships are sustained by simple, daily practices of kindness. Any sort of relationships – not just romantic ones – depend on regular, maybe even boring, acts of generosity and curiosity and thoughtfulness.
It’s the little things. Choosing your daughter’s favorite kind of cereal out of the hundreds of options. Backing your spouse’s car into the garage just to make it easier for him. Clipping out that cartoon because it makes you think of your friend. Taking a moment on a busy day just to sit together or play. Asking (and listening) about what is causing that wrinkle of worry on your beloved’s forehead.
Love, in all of its forms, happens in the repeated moments of turning toward one another, even when all kinds of things attempt to pull us away from one another.
And this, really, is what Lent is all about, too. Our lives of faith can’t be sustained by irregular moments of worship or an odd prayer here or there when we can’t find a parking space. Instead, our lives of faith are really about the daily kinds of practices that nurture our relationship with God. While there are some moments of such transcendence, most of the time worship might just be like that regular Sunday evening phone call to your aging parents. That call might not always be full of brilliant conversation, but it matters. Worship, too, is a sort of checking in with God, a time to say thank you, to be filled with stories we’ve heard before, and to be reminded, yet again, who we are.
This season of Lent can be a time to do the stuff that reconnects you with God and God’s people. In worship or prayer, Bible study or devotional reading, acts of kindness or commitments to generosity, these days before Easter can be filled with opportunities to rekindle your love for God.
After all, faith really is about those repeated moments of turning toward God, even when all kinds of things in our lives attempt to pull us away.