i have had a lot of occasion lately to examine my heart. to really explore what makes it tick, what makes it ache, and what makes it swell with joy. two of those occasions happen to be valentine's day and lent.
i was really looking forward to valentine's day this year. as of the middle of january, i was pretty sure i was going to have a boyfriend for valentine's day. do you know how long it's been since that has happened? well, let me tell you- years. i actually had a boyfriend for valentine's day 3 years ago but it didn't count- he blew it off. and our one year anniversary. oh yeah, AND my 40th birthday. now you're getting the picture. i only mention that to say that a lot of emotional baggage was riding on the luggage rack of this valentine's day. i was gonna' get the chance to redeem it and have a happy, fulfilled, other-filled vday....and then the guinea pig incident (see my last blog post if you have no idea what i'm talking about. trust me- it's relevant). in one evening, i went from filled with joy and expectation to filled with regret and trepidation. let's face it- filled with a teeny bit of hatred toward all those folks still filled with joy and expectation. funny how that works. valentine's day has, not only for me but for millions just like me, the power to make us feel categorically loved and accepted, or rejected and alone. period. there is no 3rd category in my opinion. wow...powerful stuff.
now on to lent. in a nutshell- and a theologically shaky one, i'm sure- lent is the 40 days (46, if you count sundays) between "fat tuesday" and easter. it is symbolic of christ's 40 days in the desert, being tempted by satan. it is a time of reflection, a time of gratefulness to god and christ for his gift to us, and a time of renewal and cleansing of our hearts to prepare us to accept that gift. we wait in anticipation for christ's resurrection and his triumph over death- and it ends in glory on easter, when he rises from the grave. during lent, many people give something up or take something on. the idea is to give up something you rely on. maybe something you worship, or at least count on for entertainment, or comfort, or distraction. in other words, something you turn to other than christ. it is a way of saying "you are enough for me. i don't need this other "stuff" to make me happy. you sustain me." i usually choose something food related, since that is one of my true weaknesses. the taking on of something often involves a spiritual discipline, like meditation, reading the bible, or prayer. something that brings us closer to the will of god in our lives, and prepares us to receive him. something that slows us down so we can hear his voice. one of the things i took on was meditation. i sit in the silence and listen for him.
do you know what that voice is telling me? it is telling me that it's unchristian to feel sad or rejected on valentine's day. seriously, bear with me! when jesus dies on that cross because he loves me, and then conquers death and rises from the dead, the promise is that i am not alone. i will never be alone. i am not unloved. i will never be unloved. if i give valentine's day- or anything/anyone else- the power to make me feel unloved and rejected, it is in fact, my doing. i am giving them that power. i am trying to find happiness and fulfillment in people and things, when i can only truly find that in god. all of my reflection has drowned out the distraction of what the world is screaming at me, and has narrowed the voice down to one- the one that is telling me that i am always loved, and i am never alone. that if i keep searching for that happiness outside of myself and outside of him, i will always be disappointed.
i have been trying to plug a god-shaped hole with man-shaped and stuff-shaped plugs. no matter how close a fit, there is always a gap. it is never quite right. so i keep searching. i keep meeting new people, and acquiring more things, trying to fit them into that hole and make myself complete. some days, it's a wonder that there is any room in that hole for god at all, considering all the things i've crammed into it. my lenten journey this year will be about doing some spiritual spring cleaning and getting rid of those things that are blocking god's way to my heart, and keeping him from filling me completely.
from now on, christ is my valentine.