A Lent of Love: 40 Days of Love Letters
Posted February 11, 2018
This year, the beginning of Lent coincides with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. While our thoughts often go directly to what we’ll give up for our Lenten promises, what if instead of (or in addition to) giving something up, we consider giving something to? What if for forty days, we were attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and gave out forty love notes, sharing the love that Christ has given so freely to each of us? We may choose forty different people. They can be loved ones, acquaintances, teachers, coaches, strangers who show acts of kindness, people from your past or from your present, ANYONE who’s impacted your life or that you just see something in that you want to make certain they see as well. Maybe you’d like to reach out to someone you admire or a couple that inspires you and let them know that the way they live their lives touches you. The forty days can be divided by the number of your children and spouse, taking turns with the days of the week, or even forty different notes to the same person. If sending all of them to the same person, or just a few people, you could give or make them pretty containers as a Valentine gift with the promise to fill it with love in the days to come. When a beloved parish priest was reassigned years ago, I had our youth group decoupage a treasure chest for him and each of the kids wrote him letters. Each day until the letters ran out, I mailed the real treasure to him.
Often clients will tell me how someone has impacted them and I always ask if they’ve told that person directly, what they just shared with me. All too often I get the presumptive response, “Oh, they know.” Though I’m not usually the gambling type, I’d bet good money that most of them do not, in fact, “know”, perhaps not at all. Last year I was blessed to be the recipient of one such letter that I could have never foreseen. If I had to list the people I didn’t think I’d reached over the course of my career, that now spans more than two decades, this girl would have topped the list. Through tears of joy I read and re-read how incredibly well she was doing and her gratitude for my helping her get there. It was true treasure beyond measure. I would have gone to my grave believing I’d failed her had she not so generously taken the time to share a short and simple, but profound note. I was and continue to be ever so grateful.
As Lent is a time for an increased examine of conscience, simple notes of apology could serve as a great love note as well. Reflect on the acknowledgment and validation you feel when someone apologizes to you outside the moment of injury. Those out of the blue apologies often mean much more to us than those we receive at the time of resolution. We feel more seen, heard, understood and less alone when we know the person has been carrying the weight of the pain with us as well. A few years ago I reached out to a girl from high school that had I had not been kind to. Though my offense was more than thirty years old, it was suddenly weighing on me and I reached out to her to apologize. Although my repentance was what mattered, I was grateful to learn that it was well received and had touched her as well.
Don’t fret if you feel as though you’re not related to Walt Whitman. The notes don’t need to wax poetic or even be lengthy, if you don’t want them to be. Just share whatever is in your heart that you never took the time to say before, or share sentiments you wish to entrench more deeply, as long or as short as you wish. Those little boxes of children’s Valentine’s Day cards can do the trick for those who feel intimidated and consider themselves less effusive. The limited size reduces angst about too much blank space. Some ideas to contemplate to personalize them: “Have I ever told you that the mere sound of your voice gives me great peace?” “Nothing on earth is more beautiful to me than your smile. Nothing.” “I don’t know if I could ever thank you enough for your selflessness.” “I’m constantly surprised by your resilience.” “No one makes me laugh as easily as you do.” “I’ve never known anyone who tries as hard as you do.” “Your creativity never ceases to amaze me.” “I marvel at your servant’s heart.”
You may also wish to include how you’ll be praying for them and their intentions throughout Lent. Perhaps you’ll make a list of 40 people to pray for for the entire Lenten journey and pray for all of them daily. Maybe you’ll choose to pray more deeply for the particular person you’re writing to that day. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Make it yours.
One of the things that inspired this post was a handmade Valentine my Pop made for my grandmother when they were snowed in one year. They were in their 80s at the time and had celebrated nearly 70 Valentine’s Days together at that point, but he refused to let one pass without an outward sign of his love for her. You can read their story here.
To all who are reading this, please know that you are the first of my forty. I applaud you for seeking greater ways to put more love into this world and for considering a new path for your Lenten journey. My prayer for you is that you grow closer to Christ as you share His love with others.
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