For the first time in my memory, A
sh Wednesday and Valentine's Day collide this year.
The service of Ashes, although not a tradition in the United Church, has been marked by many faith communities and has become a well-loved spiritual practice.
St Valentine's day started out as a feast day for an actual Christian Martyr and has evolved to be a secular day of celebrating love.
The juxtaposition of love and death made me think of a book I read to our kids when they were little: "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. This picture book revolves around a song, which a parent sings to their child:
"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living
my baby you'll be."
The bottom line of the song is this: love may be endless, but life is not. It's a good song for the collision of ashes and valentine's cards. What an appropriate reminder to tell the people we love that our love is endless. "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always." At the same time, we are reminded to meditate on the fact that everything -including we ourselves -will someday die. Ashes to ashes. "As long as I'm living my baby you'll be."
The two events create a certain tension. What dies and what lasts forever? Love may be endless, but this life is not. Knowing that, what do I hold onto tightly? And what do I hold loosely, knowing it will someday slip from my grasp?
As a pastor, I know that my church does best when I hold it loosely, in an open palm, rather than inside a closed fist.
As a mother, I know that my children do best if I can give them both roots and wings, as the saying goes, an ever-evolving dynamic.
As a wife, I know that a long-term marriage is forever shape-shifting. Our careers wax and wane, independent of each other. The kids grow, fly away, and come back. As the years pass, one cannot escape the realization that saying "yes" to one Great Love means saying a hundred other "no-s".
Do any of these rhythms speak to you? What would you add as Valentine's Day collides with Ash Wednesday?