I don’t know what today held for you, but I imagine it was a mix of things.

I mean… Valentine’s Day + Ash Wednesday

A both/and if there ever was one.

Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day

Tonight the ashes of last year’s Palm Sunday palm fronds were smudged onto my forehead, the mark of the cross, a reminder of dust, of devastation, of death.

There’s so much that has shifted since this time last year, so much loss, so much to grieve, so much that died. You don’t have to look far to find ruins, to see the smoke billowing, to find someone who would say it feels like Lent never really ended, like it lingered all year and has somehow returned once again.

The ashes are pressed, another both/and on this both/and day… hosanna turned into dust… and a verse from that old book of lament comes to mind while we sing “Lord have mercy.”

Lamentations is a book of poetic laments over the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem, grief written out on the page. But right there in the very middle of the book of sorrow over all that has been lost, all that broke, all that looks and feels like death, there are four verses that seem out of place.

Tucked between words of loneliness, insults, weeping, rejection from those who were trusted, and phrases like “Joy is gone from our hearts; dancing has turned to mourning” — right there, exactly in the middle of it all, love.

Lamentations 3:21-24 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope

Sorrow surrounds and there’s much to weep over. Time takes time, and rebuilding won’t happen overnight. But there in the place where it all fell to pieces, it begins with a reminder like an altar in the ashes.

The grief doesn’t end after the declaration of 3:21-24. Because it’s the middle, right? And so there’s more. More grief. More loss. More, more, more.

But underneath the rubble, there’s hope. Flickering in the dark, compassion that won’t fail. Arriving every morning, new mercies. It’s both at the very same time, and on days like today, I’m just grateful for a God who is constant through it all.

God doesn’t run when it gets dark, doesn’t say “this more is too much.” He isn’t overwhelmed by what feels like it will consume us. He doesn’t lie, He doesn’t leave, He doesn’t change His mind. In the joy and in the sorrow and in the times when we’re holding both, God holds us.

On every page of the story, He is. Ever faithful, always good.

Love—reaching, coming, staying.

Love—in the loss and in the ashes.

Love—in the rebuilding and the restoring.

Love—in the miracles and the dancing.

Sometimes Lent lingers long after the calendar pages turn. There is much to lament, and there’s no bow that wraps everything up with the assurance that everything shifts tomorrow.

But there’s a promise that God will be with us in tomorrow, that our weeping is heard, that we are seen in the rubble. Here, in the middle. Here, in the both/and. Here, with ashes smudged on skin.

Because right there in the ash, love, in the shape of a cross. Marked with the reminder that yes, there’s death, but because of love, death itself died.

It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s Ash Wednesday.

It’s a day of both, a day of much, a day when we think about love and death and a love that died so that we might forever live.

I don’t know what today held for you, here in the much-ness of the both/and, but I believe that you are held—secure in His love whether you’re twirling, dancing with delight, or kneeling in the ashes, hands empty and tears running fast.

You are held. You are seen. You are loved.

No matter what, on all the days, come what may that will not change.

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If you need a reminder that you aren’t alone + a little bit of encouragement as you navigate a chapter you wouldn’t have chosen → will help you choose hope for tomorrow when today feels like a question mark.