My blog-o-friend "The Thief" is a young Methodist minister. He wrote a touching piece linked here about his role as a pastor; he had to decide whether to wear a robe during the Ash Wednesday service.
I hated to miss this year’s Ash Wednesday service at our church. I’ve been a real, live Christian for only the past (almost) thirteen years out of my sixty-four. I didn't grow up celebrating Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent—and maybe that's one reason it has come to hold lots of significance for me in these years.
Before I came to know Christ, I never paid much attention to its meaning, even though I went to church enough that I should have known. I couldn’t even have told anybody the definition of “Ash Wednesday.” Probably I would have said, “Well, it is sort of leading up to Easter, has something to do with Lent, and I’m not sure what that is. It’s the day you get ashes on your forehead if you want to.”
Now, however, the whole Ash Wednesday-Lent-Easter time sort of has an aura around it for me, sort of throbs with meaning. It is a time when my love for Jesus seems to deepen, and I contemplate God’s endless, boundless love. Is there anything I could possibly do to deserve it?
I quote this from my Ash Wednesday entry last year:
“It is a season of repentance, of letting go of secret regret or pain. It is a time to tell the truth to ourselves about our regrets, a time to make a choice to begin again through repentance. Many people give up something or do something special during Lent to remind them, through a personal sacrifice, to remain true to the search of self.
“In the Bible, the prophet Joel says,
‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’
“Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for his is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2: 12-13)”
No, there is nothing I could ever possibly do to deserve his love. The heart is what God really wants us to give up—not coffee or chocolate or some other thing. He wants my whole heart, and I gladly give it.