My youngest came home from preschool yesterday with a story. His class was making craft hearts with tissue paper, and he was running out of supplies. His friend across the table said, “Here’s some of my paper!” and freely gave it away. During the retelling, my son said thoughtfully, “I didn’t even ask for it, Mom. He just gave it to me before I even needed it!”
Yes, the kingdom of God belongs to such as these for sure.
At a time when we are recognizing Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day in the same week, I find myself reflecting not just on the sentimental side of love, but on the true sacrificial nature of it. Ash Wednesday is a traditional liturgical holy day upon which Christians reflect on their sin and repent, and allow themselves to sit in that space that humbles and convicts, that reminds us that we are merely mortal—dust to dust, ashes to ashes. We need a Savior. Valentine’s Day hearkens back to a saint with a murky legend, but one that celebrated love and marriage, even in the face of martyrdom. Today, the day is overwhelmed with pinks and reds and roses and cards and chocolates, tokens meant to remind us that we are loved.
On Valentine’s Day, similar to every other day, we want to be seen, to be known, to be loved. As I sit and reflect on my sin and need for my Savior, I am humbled at the depth of my brokenness and easily overwhelmed by my failures—all the places I know I am not enough. But on this week, where days of repentance and love merge, I am so encouraged because I know that Jesus is enough, and He has given me His righteousness. He sees me. He knows me. He loves me. He makes me enough. He sees you, too, and loves you—dust and ashes and all. Because you are more than just your flesh in His eyes, you are a living being with value and dignity and worth because you were formed and fashioned by the Creator, given life by His grace and love, and called into relationship with your Heavenly Father because He just wants you so much.
Like my son’s preschool friend, Jesus looked ahead to see our dust and ashes, our sin and shortcomings, and He predicted our need. Before we even knew Him, He knew us. Before we even asked to be saved, Jesus died on the cross in the ultimate act of love, the giving of himself for our very souls, for our very life. He’s holding his hand out with a gift of eternal life if we’d like to receive it. He’s looking at your heart with gentle eyes and a kind smile. Oh, how He loves you.
So in this week of sin-confessing and love-sharing, I want to do more than buy my husband a peanut butter and chocolate heart (but I will also for sure do this because I know he really wants one). I want to be intentional about seeing my people, looking for something they might need, and I want to step in and provide for them before they even know what they need. Like the morning I had a cough and my husband left a warm cup of tea on my bedside before I was even out of the bathroom.
None of us can outdo Christ’s gift of everlasting life and divine sacrificial love, but we can learn from Him how to love others well. Let’s take time to reflect on how much we need God’s love this week, and let’s take time to really look at the people around us. Do you see them? What do they need? A cup of tea, a ride to the doctor, a note in the mail, someone to hold the crying baby while she takes a nap, a listening ear and a seeing eye, an apology? How can you serve? How can you love? What can you fast from, give away, sacrifice in this time of anticipating the celebration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection? What can you give of yourself, even when nobody even asked for it?!
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13