Lent and Valentine’s Day share an identity

Ch. (Maj.) Kelly O’Lear
Command Chaplain 
Special Operations Command-Africa

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

There is great irony in the Christian calendar this year. Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day are the same day.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of giving up some familiar pleasures, seeking forgiveness and setting things right.  The other, Valentine’s Day, has become a Western observation of expressing emotional love and sharing gifts. Despite the clear differences, the two have an intertwined reality for those who seek to serve others. Considering both at the same time provides unique insights into a deeper understanding of love itself.

Real love, biblically defined, involves emotions but is anchored in service. Love, at its most real and visceral expressions, manifests itself when positive affection might be lacking – conducting the acts of love in the absence of the “that loving feeling.”  This best exemplifies itself in sacrifice.

Both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day find a shared identity in love expressed as service.  If Valentine’s Day is truly about love then the words of Jesus of Nazareth best exemplify this reality:

 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). 

Love in its most superior expression requires sacrifice and service.

As you prepare your heart and intentions for Lent and Valentine’s Day, take time to consider the way others have loved you through sacrifice. Remember the faithful who paid the last full measure in hopes of a better future for their family, community and country.

Look even closer.  Consider love not solely from the perspective of emotions, however important.  Consider the sacrifices of the service member, their families and those who support them. Those sacrifices are greater than changing emotions or material gifts – those sacrifices are love in action.