VaLENTine Day 2018February 15, 2018
Yesterday was VaLENTine’s day, the first time since WWII that Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fell on the same day. My morning was filled with ensuring that Matthew got to school in a red shirt with a bag of goodies that complied with the needs of his classmates but were still Valentiney, without being “too Valentiney,” he insisted. I signed another permission slip for the field trip across the street to the High School as the time of the party had changed, again.
Then it was across town to the other school to be sure that the 9th graders had what they needed for the distribution of roses to all the girls and cookies to all the boys, with all the right accompanying notes. Between the two school stops I paused over my own daily Lenten devo plan and tried to figure out how I was going to keep the dual commitment to any Lenten discipline and do justice to Valentine’s day – which is also my sister’s birthday and mom’s anniversary! I texted my sister and left a message for mom, making a mental note to call them both in the evening after our family VaLENTine dinner. As I was picking up the yellow roses for Jim, I heard the news.
The town was Parkland, Florida.
There were multiple fatalities.
The shooter was a teenager and he had been apprehended.
Time stopped and it hasn’t completely reset yet.
Every time we get another update from the Broward County Sheriff or hear details from kids who were in the building, I have a hard time holding it together. I want to lie down and weep. I remember Columbine and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook and Pulse and Vegas and Sutherland Springs. I pray – and I feel the pain of those who scream back that my prayers are futile. They want action. I want action too. But I know that evil is real and people are broken and the human heart is desperately wicked.
Which brings me back to both the strange and yet appropriate intersection of Valentine’s Day and Lent. Hearts and ashes. Love and sin. Hope and desperation.
Our VaLENTine dinner was more somber than I had planned. The colorful table and cards and flowers and themed food and evidence of affection seemed entirely too red. We prayed at length and we ate slowly. We felt the weight of the events of the day as we imagined all the VaLENTine plans shattered by a gunman’s bullets. Valentine’s Day will never be the same for any of them. February 14th is now forever marred. My guess is that destroying Valentine’s Day was part of the plan.
But God’s plan is bigger and from the ashes rises a road to a hill called Calvary and a crucified cross and a victory over sin and death. And no, today’s not the day to say that to the grieving families of those senselessly murdered in Parkland, but it is the Truth we must be prepared to speak into the conversation of our day. Evil is persistent, but redemption is possible. Death is horrible, but it has been stripped of its power. Hate is striving every day to overtake us, but Love wins.
Most of our neighbors do not know that hope. They will grasp for explanations based in psychology and mental illness and laws and increased safeguards at and around our schools. But none of that begins to affect the real issue: sin, brokenness, rejection, loneliness, hopelessness, jealousy, rage and finally, murderous violence. As the gunman’s story is told, look and listen for these signs along the path leading to destruction. This in no way excuses his actions, but even the Gerasene demoniac had a history that resulted in his life among the tombs. The world literally had no way to deal with him – but Jesus did.
Instead of the Olympics, I watched the news last night. I was struck by the juxtaposition of the ashes on the forehead of the commentator and the Valentine decor in the background and the pieces of news coming out of Parkland. Lent, right in the middle of my VaLENTine.
And, so as not to leave you wondering, before I turned in last night, I wished my sister a happy birthday and my mom a happy anniversary and my husband a happy Valentine’s Day. But sleep did not come easy. Ash Wednesday burned.