Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, but it is also Ash Wednesday which begins Lent. Both days celebrate love, our love for a spouse or family member and Jesus’ great love for us, but do they require sacrifice? I think they do, and sacrifice requires love.
Lent is the 40 day period before Easter beginning tomorrow. It’s 40 days because Jesus fasted in the wilderness that long to prepare Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Some churches hold services and place an ash mark on everyone’s forehead on Ash Wednesday. For some this is the mark of a believer. Traditionally these ashes came from burning last year’s Palm Sunday palms. Ashes are symbols of repentance and mortality. Remember ashes to ashes, dust to dust?
Valentine’s Day is to celebrate love. That sweet, adoring, starry-eyed love. Roses, candy, and jewelry have been my sweet husband’s way to show love on that holiday. Often we would listen to music we did when we dated and dine in to reflect on “the good old days” and what was to come.
Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, Love and Sacrifice
So now we have these two unrelated holidays together. Or are they? Both are days to think about the past and hope to the future. I know marriage takes sacrifice. It isn’t just me when I got married. It turned into we. I need to sacrifice my wants for my husband’s. I would love a house filled with fur babies. My husband’s wish is for none. We have one cat and one dog which is a sacrifice for both of us out of love.
When I became a Christian many years ago I gave up my will for God’s perfect one. Best decision I have ever made. That is a small sacrifice compared to what Jesus gave up for me. He gave up His life. There is no greater love.
Lent is a time of reflection, repentance, and prayer. It is a time to think about what we’ve done wrong, who we really are, ask forgiveness, and draw closer to God in prayer. A time of preparation, making ourselves better. It is a time of sacrifice and love.
We give things up from coffee, candy, and pizza to television, Facebook and hobbies. I don’t think giving up turnip greens, exercise, housework or homework is exactly in line with things to sacrifice. Do you?
Take up your cross
In Luke 9:23, Jesus was speaking. “ And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Sounds a lot like Lent to me. When I deny myself something as trivial as a cup of coffee I am reminded of why I can’t have it. For me it is a small minuscule token for what Christ gave up for me. I am reminded that I want to be His disciple, and that I should be a better person.
So this year as Lent begins and Valentine’s Day tries to nudge Ash Wednesday out, let Jesus be your Valentine. Give Him the gift of fasting. Try it and see how you feel. Denomination doesn’t matter. Maybe give up not going to church. If you struggle with lying or gossiping give it up, please. Give up a little of your time to pray more or help someone. Have family devotions. Prepare your family, mind, and heart for what Easter really means. It means love and life.
Give up a little and gain a lot. See how these forty days of sacrifice affect you, those around you, and perhaps your next forty or fifty years. Prepare yourself not just for Easter but for a better life here and in eternity.
What are you giving up this year for Lent? What have you gained from fasting?
Nyla Kay Wilkerson
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