Another Ash Wednesday is upon us, a day that marks the first day of Lent. It is on this day that we begin our 40 day Lenten journey. A time of reflection, self-examination, self-sacrifice, and, ultimately, repentance. A time set aside in the Christian calendar for us to remember that we are sinners in need of a Savior, to meditate in the wilderness, and to prepare our hearts, minds, and bodies for the celebration of Easter. Lent reminds us that we must not rush to Easter. We are an Easter people, but to be an Easter people, we must first remember the pain, suffering, and death that enabled the resurrection. We must remember our sin and the role it played in Jesus' suffering. We must strive to realign our lives with Christ so that we may share in the celebration of his victorious resurrection.
It is a powerful season full of ritual and sacrifice, one that I usually welcome and enjoy. Okay, so I'm not sure that enjoy is the right word, but I seriously LOVE the traditional services held during this season - Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday in particular. We are generally expected to give up something during Lent, forcing/encouraging ourselves to literally deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ. Some folks fast from food, some television, and others Facebook. A couple of years ago I gave up meat. The year before that I fasted until lunch. One year I decided I'd add something instead. That year I wrote notes of encouragement to many of my friends, ministers, and family thanking them for being who they are. It's amazing how much these simple disciplines can teach you.
I sat last year out. I was pregnant and taking doctoral exams and failed to make time for a Lenten discipline. I'm not particularly proud of that, but it's true. I resolved that this year I must return to this discipline. I need a bit of spiritual renewal like nobody's business this year and I'm so excited to begin this journey through the wilderness with Christ. Since I'm still breastfeeding, I didn't want to risk fasting or giving up meat so I've been thinking a lot about what I should do (or not do as the case may be). I've decided that I will simply try to "be still" expecting God to speak. For me, this involves three things: 1) a daily devotion, 2) weekly attendance at chapel, and 3) bi-weekly journaling. This may sound simple, but trust me when I say that making time for these things will be a discipline. I bought a couple of books today that contain reflections for Lent so I'm going to start there. If you want to join me in reading, reflecting, and praying through this Lenten season, here's a free Lent devotional.
After receiving my ashes this morning, I went along my merry way to complete my crazy Wednesday schedule. As I sat in the library grading a sermon, I reached up and touched my forehead for some reason. As I saw the ash that had transferred from forehead to finger in the exchange, I thought, "I always seem to forget..." And then I thought, "Well, isn't that kind of the point..." We do forget. We forget who we are and who God is...we forget to repent...we forget to serve...we forget what's important...we forget where we're going...we must be reminded...
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.