Friday, February 16, 2018

Love means never having to say that you're sorry

That was the line espoused by Ali McGraw in the 1970s film "Love Story" - and as a romantically inclined teenager that made perfect sense to me. Falling in love would mean a soft focus walk towards a beautiful sunset, accompanied not only by my beloved but by a whole string orchestra. And because our love would be perfect, we would never ever disappoint one another and so we would never need to say "sorry".

Well, that phase lasted til my first romance, I guess...And when I married the father of my children, the exhaustion of early years parenting, the absence of enough cash for the number of days in the month, and a whole host of other stresses and strains presented me with a hefty dose of harsh reality really quite quickly. It turned out, in fact, that love meant having to say I was sorry on a distressingly regular basis. I realised that if love was going to have any hope of surviving, then it had to be based on reality. And in the real world I, and my loved ones, mess up regularly and so we need to say sorry several dozen times a day.
That's just how it is - even in human relationships, where there are always faults on both sides, and where learning to forgive as well as be forgiven is just the way things are.

So this year, with Ash Wednesday falling on 14th February, love and saying sorry come together with renewed force. Ash Wednesday, you see, is all about accepting the truth of who we are...fallible human beings, constrained by time and mortality...(though there is something very liberating in realising that we are, truly, dust...that so much of the stuff that preoccupies and disturbs us here and now is of no lasting significance at trying to adopt, as we travel through Lent, something of the perspective of eternity).

It's about taking a long hard look at ourselves, about seeing the mess, the pain, the destruction we have caused - and accepting responsibility for them.
BEING sorry.
But it's also about recognising the truth of who GOD is...the depths of his love from which nothing can separate us...
about accepting that even as we bring all our personal baggage of sin and failure, resentment and despair to God, God loves us far too much to leave us grappling with it. 

It seems to me that even as we begin to say "Sorry" the things of which we repent are swept away as God takes us up in the kind of loving embrace that every child should surely receive, if the world was as God intended.
Love sweeps away our "Sorry"...but we do need to say that "Sorry" to be free to hear and receive the love.

My friend Stu used, on Ash Wednesday, to use different words when marking his penitent congregation with their crosses of ash.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love" "You are my friends" "I am with you always".
Loving messages from the God who calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light...

Sorrow and love find their fullest expression at the cross, but as we begin to travel towards Calvary, they belong together here as well, where we begin to learn the joy of trying to walk with integrity and recognise that love will often mean having to say that we're sorry.
And that's just fine!

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