You’ll never believe what happened when Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday fell on the same day, back in 2018.
Here’s what happened:
I had left the house in a rush, grabbing my stuff and wishing my wife an “I love you!” as I ran for the door. I had to make it to church in time for the come-and-go imposition of ashes. We decided not to have a service this year, opting instead for a couple hour-long spans when people could come to the church, receive ashes and a devotion booklet, and be invited to pray in silence.
There were already a couple people sitting in pews waiting when I got to the sanctuary. I dropped my stuff in the front pew and reached in my satchel for my vial of ashes—and it wasn’t there! Instead I found a bag of Valentines candy. Little candy hearts I was going to pass out to my staff and family that evening.
I stood there, paralyzed, as another person came into the sanctuary. The man walked down the aisle right to me, brushing away his hair so I could impose the ashes that I didn’t have.
Panicking, and not knowing what else to do, I ripped open the bag of hearts, grabbed one, and placed it in the man’s palm. Looking down, we read together what it said: “Be Mine”.
He looked at me, startled. Straight-faced, I muttered, “Repent and believe the Gospel.” He slowly turned away, as if trying to decide if he was supposed to eat it or not.
There was a line now. The woman behind him stepped forward, and tentatively held out her hand. I pulled another one out. It said, “Hot Stuff”. Obviously that wouldn’t do, so I popped it in my mouth, said a silent prayer, and pulled out another. “True Love.” That was more like it.
“Repent and believe the Gospel,” I said, placing it in her hand. She smiled. That was a good sign. The line was all the way down the aisle, now. Would I have enough appropriate hearts to pass out? I said another silent prayer.
The next one surprised me: “Have Faith”. The one after that said, “I Forgive.” Amazed, I pulled another and gasped. It said, “Died 4 U”. People were leaving with tears in their eyes now. I had to wipe a few away myself. In later days people would tell me it was the most moving Ash Wednesday they could remember. Believe me, I gave God all the credit.
As the last person left the sanctuary, I looked down in the bag. One heart left. Bracing, I pulled it out. It said “Dust 2 Dust”.
Indeed. Wiping the candy dust from my hands, I sank down into the pew and began my own Lenten journey. I tried to quiet my mind, but the thought wouldn’t leave me…
If God could make Valentines Day into a meaningful observance of Ash Wednesday,
What might God do with April Fool’s Day and Easter?
Have a good week,