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This Lent will you hear God say, ‘See how much I love you?’

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Just before her 20th birthday, Erin Gillard received a love letter that was poured directly into her heart. Photo: Unsplash
Just before her 20th birthday, Erin Gillard received a love letter that was poured directly into her heart. Photo: Unsplash

I am such a romantic and I love receiving letters, especially love letters. Having just celebrated Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday, I have been thinking about them often.  

Love letters seem to be a lost art these days, with text messages, emails and social media the preferred methods for communicating.  

I still prefer pen and paper. There is nothing quite like a handwritten letter.  

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As a teenager and then as a young adult, I would daydream about receiving handwritten letters with declarations of undying love within the folded paper and inky scrawl.  

Just before my 20th birthday I received a very special love letter of sorts which captured my heart. So profound was its impact that, 15 years on, I can still recite it word for word: 

“Allow me to romance you, allow me to woo your heart, the love that I provide for you, sustains and always lasts, 

“I promise to be beside you, each step you take each day, come discover a love like no other, a romance to blow you away.” 

Those words were so powerful and would melt even the hardest of hearts, but their author was not my beloved husband Kiel.  

Kiel has written hundreds of cards and letters over the years we have been together, but none had the same sticking power. Nor could his words compete with these. Nor do they have to. 

These words were poured into my heart while I sat alone in the church on a silent retreat. These words were from the heart of God to my heart. A heart of a young woman who longed to be loved in a deep and profound way.  

I wanted a love only the creator of my heart could provide, to fill the God shaped hole that was there. I came to realise that the love we all seek, regardless of our vocation in life, finds its fulfilment in the heart of God.  

Kiel and I write love letters to each other even after 14 years together. Mostly these notes consist of only six letters: S.H.M.I.L.Y, “See how much I love you.”  

The inspiration came from a friend, Caroylnn, who told me a story about a husband and wife who would leave little love notes with S.H.M.I.L.Y for the other to find. This story stuck with me so much, what with my love of love letters, that I knew I’d love to play that game one day with my beloved. 

And so Kiel and I began our own S.H.M.I.L.Y journey. Kiel left for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and S.H.M.I.L.Y appeared sprawled in the sands atop Mt Sinai, on the shore of the River Jordan, at Bethany and in Bethlehem.  

When I left a few weeks later to travel Europe with my best friend Aimee, S.H.M.I.L.Y was written in the snow at the top of the tallest mountain in Switzerland, held on a card at the Vatican and written on the fogged up tour bus windows.  

Kiel had also rang ahead to all the hotels I was staying at and left S.H.M.I.L.Y messages for me to receive when I arrived. Sometimes these were lost in translation!  

During Lent and especially during Holy Week Jesus is writing S.H.M.I.L.Y on our hearts. In his journey with the disciples into Jerusalem; his celebration of the Last Supper; his prayer in Gethsemane; and his Passion, death and resurrection–everything Jesus does is to show us how much he loves us. 

His love is “like no other and will blow you away.” His cross becomes our bridge to get from this life to eternal life with him in heaven. 

Lent is our journey towards knowing and loving God in deeper and more profound ways. A journey of love, for love, to love, at the foot of the cross and finishing with the glory of the Resurrection.   

The fasting, prayer and almsgiving we take up during lent, helps us make the journey and refine and ready our hearts to accept and then share that great divine love. 

Jesus is offering you this great love. He will not force his love upon you and our gift of free will means we have to accept it, receive it and let that love flow into our lives and allow it to transform us. 

Accepting this type of love can be difficult and sometimes, due to our broken and fallen nature, we can get caught in the trap of feeling like we don’t deserve God’s love. But there is never “too far gone” in God’s book.  

He redeemed us all—we just have to choose and want to be saved. We just have to accept it and embrace it. 

When you gaze upon a crucifix, Jesus on the cross, over these Lenten days, contemplate Jesus speaking these words into the very depths of your heart: “See how much I love you.”

Will your message back to him be: “See How Much I Love You, Lord?” 

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