‘What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people.’ (John 1.1-5)
This lent I will be reading #LiveLent, the Church of England’s Lent publication. Ash Wednesday 2018 is, funnily enough, on Valentine’s day. Now that may sound contradictory. Ash Wednesday, a day of
soberness and reflection, a day where we remember that we are ‘dust and ashes’, a day where we are reminded of Jesus’ death on a cross. On the other hand there’s Valentine’s day, a day shops reminded us about its coming for weeks on end, advertising in red and pink with lots of hearts.
Although having said that, Valentine’s day for you could be a day where you remember you are ‘still single’, ‘single again’, or ‘seeing someone but not at all sure if it’s worth the roses and chocolate stores want us to buy’. That already sounds a lot less festive. And you may wonder what to do with these next 40 days. Should you give up your Smartphone? Chocolate? Wine? Or is it time to give up dating perhaps?
Last year February a bloke came up to me saying: ‘I know what I need to do. I need to give up dating for a while’. He was in his 40s and rumour had it he was quite a player. He knew about his reputation, and wanted to make a clean break. He told me his story. How he had been in a long term relationship, how in the end it didn’t work out and she left him. How he was heartbroken and promised to never let a woman hurt him in that way again. How he had been dating on and off ever since and how now he had hit a wall. Listening to my story about becoming the one instead of looking for the one his eyes were opened to his own behaviour and he realized: ‘if I never let anyone close enough to hurt me, I will also not let anyone close enough to really love me. And in return I cannot truly love another person again’.
He needed a break from dating. He suggested a year, I suggested 40 days. When you are in your 40’s, whether you are a man or a woman, if you want to have children there’s time to consider. It’s not only women’s fertility that has an end date, it’s men’s fertility too. And this guy wanted children. So he didn’t have a year to waste. I said to him: ‘it takes 40 days to break old habits and form new ones. You don’t need a year. You do need 40 days, but moreover, you need a plan’. Which is why I love the title of the Lent publication of the Church of England this year, Live Lent. Lent is not something to be bothered by, or to feel guilty about, or to endure, it is something to live!
‘For forty days, read about the One Jesus is. Pause to think about what that means to you. Pray into the one you want to become. Witness the changes He makes into your life’, I instructed him (disclaimer: the Read Pause Pray Witness structure can be found in the little Lent booklet). This was last year. That same guy is currently happily dating a lovely woman and they are engaged to be married. His reading, pausing and praying into his deeper issues with attachment and love have led him to witness significant change in his attitude towards women. Women were no longer trophies to admire from a distance as soon as they were conquered, collecting as many as you can, but one woman became his best friend and soon to be wife.
If you feel like your dating life needs change, consider taking a 40-day break this year, only to get back on track better and happier. Read my book Dare to Date on how to work on your foundations, how to get back in dating-shape and how to involve God and your community in the process. Live lent. And remember, St Valentine was a martyr, murdered for marrying a couple in love. So don’t let the pink mafia get to you. St Valentine and Ash Wednesday have more in common than our modern day society would have us believe. Time to reflect on what really matters!
To find out more about the #LiveLent campaign go to churchofengland.org/lent
Aukelien Van Abbema is a singles and couples counsellor, public speaker, and successful author, including the title Dare to Date.
Helping people with Christian dating, relationships, singleness in church, dating in church, loneliness, connectedness, christian connection, healthy relationships.