A Sorry Valentine
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
The line comes from the 1970 novel and film “Love Story,” written by Erich Segal, and has been both repeated and mocked ever since. While it may sound terribly romantic, I think we must admit that at the deepest level, it is not true. In a loving relationship, one does not need to obsess on every failing. We don’t need to apologize every time we forget to put the spoon in the dishwasher. But in the more weighty matters of relationships, “I’m sorry” is critical.
This February, we celebrate both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. Ash Wednesday reminds us that essential to the Christian faith is acknowledging our failure to live as God intended and that we therefore need a Savior to rescue us. Therefore, we set aside a season of each church year to examine and recall our desperate need for God. It is not that penitence is only appropriate at this time, but rather that a season of focus helps us not to forget our need the rest of the year.
While Valentine’s Day normally focuses on the passion and “warm fuzzies” of a romantic relationship, a part of that picture includes the acknowledgment that neither one involved in a relationship is perfect and both need the love and forgiveness of the other. Saying “I’m sorry” is one of the most loving things we do because it acknowledges that the other is worthy of our best and that we often fall short. In the final analysis, to fail to say “I’m sorry” is to imply that the other is not important enough to be worth our best.
Part of “I’m sorry” is the commitment to change, in both our relationship with God and our closest personal relationships. It is worth thinking about how we get from “I’m sorry” to real change.
In February, we begin the forty day season of Lent. By today’s standards, it seems a long time to be in a season of penitence and fasting. Forty days! If you think that’s a long time, there was a time when it was three years!
There are some things that just take time and changing the human heart is one of them. Real, meaningful and lasting lifechange is one of the most difficult things for us to accomplish. Witness the number of New Year’s Resolutions that have already been abandoned, perhaps to be resurrected again next year. But to make changes real and embed them in our lives takes time, and lots of it. There is no quick fix for the human heart.
As we move through this season of Lent, be thankful for the gift of time. Don’t be surprised if new Lenten disciplines don’t immediately take hold and become second nature. Give God the time to accomplish His work in you. He won’t be done tomorrow. He won’t even be done when you take your last breathe. But He will complete it! Remember the words of Paul to the church at Philippi, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) And that could be awhile!
See you there!
This column is from the February 2018 “Good News,” the monthly newsletter of St. John’s. Click here for the complete issue.