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In a fascinating quirk of the calendar, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same date this year. While the two observances might seem to clash, they are an inspiring pairing. On a day that happily celebrates love, we begin the season in which Jesus gladly demonstrated His love for the Father and for us in astounding ways.

And while Jesus went out into the desert by Himself, He was not alone. Through His time of trial and temptation, He was held close to the heart of the Father and made strong by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was love – gracious, unconditional, and unwavering – that gave Him the power to dismiss the Devil and his trickery.

At some time in life, each of us will be in the desert. We may face times of trial or temptation, doubt or despair. We may find ourselves suddenly alone, abandoned by or separated from those we hold dear. We may seek to be alone, yearning to impose order on the chaos in our hearts and minds.

But even in these darkest moments, however long they may last, we are not alone. We are loved by the Savior who has gone before us to tame the desert, stripping it of its power over us. He sits beside us in love, patience, and understanding.

We are loved by the Shepherd who set aside everything else to save the one lost sheep. He does not stand in comfort with the ninety-nine, expecting us to come to Him. He seeks us out and finds us wherever we are lost. He gathers us to Himself in love, and carries us home.

We are loved by the King who died so we might live. His road to the Cross begins anew on Wednesday, and He offers us the chance to walk with Him. Let us be brave enough to join His journey, that we may learn to walk out of the desert and into paradise, saved by grace and empowered by love. May we give thanks every step of the way, and may the glory be ever His.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:37-40