On Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday


On Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday

By Laura Fogler 

        In a rush on my way to work on February 13th, I popped into CVS to grab a card for my husband of three months. Excited that his travel schedule permitted us to spent our first Valentines together as a married couple, I snapped up a cheesy card with plenty of room to write something sappy.

        I never saw the face of the woman in front of me at the check-out, but her body was so…tired. Her slumped shoulders and slightly tangled blonde hair said a long night was finally coming to an end. Her long-sleeve black shirt weaved together fishnet and lace and met oddly at her hips with a grey cotton skirt that was far too “appropriate” for the situation.

        As she leaned on the counter, her ankles gently crossed behind her. White ’80s style leg warmers were pulled down to partially cover her silver sequined stilettos. Pushing two packs of fake eye lashes and a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream across the counter, her voice was worn as she politely discussed her coupons with the cashier.

          I stood there dumbfounded by the juxtaposition at 8:15 a.m. on a Tuesday. In my hand lay my cheesy card: “Will you be my Valentine?...”Not that you have a choice since we’re married.” A bad joke in a last-minute card celebrating my stable and supportive relationship that I often take for granted. I was glad to see how well the female cashier treated the woman, even quickly checking me out at a different register to give the woman an extra moment to sort out her coupons and change.

           Walking to my car I couldn’t immediately process the significance of the moment, so I just started throwing prayers at God while my brain worked it out – I prayed that she would feel hope, love, His presence, even if only for fleeting moment that day; I prayed that she would find a support system, that she would not forget her worth, and above all that others would not judge her as she bought the supplies and comfort she needed that morning – who doesn’t need Häagen-Dazs at 8 a.m., anyway?

             But while these prayers are good they were all rooted in the basis of only her needing things in that moment, as if she were the only broken person in that store.

             There were two people in line – me and her – and both of us needed help.

             Some of us wear our troubles literally on our sleeves, some inwardly with our pride. However, we all struggle and are in need of support. Some of us have more earthly support than others, but God is there equally for us all. He loves all of us equally, and she may very well be ahead of me in the line to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

            “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5

           This year Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day – a day that puts romantic love on a pedestal above all else – and in so doing provides us a unique opportunity to open our eyes and view this holiday differently.

             We can celebrate (mostly) our romantic relationships by feasting and an inward focus, or we can also use this day as a reminder to take the planks out of our own eyes and see the humanity in those so often overlooked, or worse laughed at or judged without context. Therefore, we must fight our instincts and love others both to their faces and, more importantly, behind their backs. Ash Wednesday is meant to remind us of our mortality and need to repent, for we all have fallen short.

          “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” – James 4:11-12

          Which way will we choose to observe this February 14th – through the eyes of the world, or through the eyes of the Lord?

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— H.B.W.
Shannon JanicoComment