This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. The day of candy hearts, overpriced roses, and a whole host of feelings emerge on the same day that the church calendar calls us to gather in community, to reckon with our mortality, and to repent.
It’s just the sort of confluence that gets me thinking and writing.
Memory is a strange thing — the way it picks and chooses what to remember, how it distorts and puts the puzzle of real life back together in its own way. On one particular Valentine’s Day in high school, I remember feeling more woman than girl, with a fancy red top. I met my boyfriend (now husband) at the bottom of the stairs, his flowers and photo collage in hand. His jaw dropped. We’d been a couple for six months, which of course is a lifetime in high school romances.
That was what romantic love was then — demonstrative acts of adoration, feeling sexy, clinging to another person to save you. It was fancy dinners and longing.
Love was not yet what it could and would be. It was but a shadow of what Love is.
Love looks different now. This year, twenty Valentine’s Days past that one, I’m going to be spending it in the parking lot of our local elementary school because this year, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Since our church plant meets at the local elementary school and we can’t get space to meet mid-week, we’re meeting in the parking lot.
As the wife of the pastor, I first asked (not very nicely), “What? For real? We’re meeting in the parking lot?”
Yet, I suppose it makes sense — and in a way that is about more than just scheduling. What other space is as mundane, as common, as the asphalt at a local elementary school?
So, I will line up behind a bedraggled group of suburbanites in the local elementary school parking lot, trying to wrangle our kids so we can bring all of who we are to be marked by the reminder we too often forget: we are but dust and to dust we shall return.
If you’re longing for your Lenten season to have purpose, or if you’re curious about practicing Lent in positive life-giving ways, I’ve created “40 Ways to Love Your Suburb” and it’s FREE just this week. To get it, enter your email and it’ll come to you on Ash Wednesday — whether or not you’re gathering in a parking lot.