Ash Wednesday was a few days ago, Feb. 17. In celebration of the beginning of Lent, I went to an evening service at my church. Pastor John put a cross-shaped smudge of ashes on my forehead, saying “Dust you are, and to dust you will return.” He said Lent is a time for reflection and repentance.
He said sometimes people give up something for Lent, but too often, they do it for the wrong reasons--to lose weight, for example. The purpose for giving up something is to help us focus on Christ, what he means to us, our response to him. I don’t have trouble with that focus, so I don’t give up anything, or at least I never have until this year.
My daughter and I decided to forego desserts except for one day a week. As I said, I have not done this before. On Tuesday, the 16th, I celebrated the coming experience by eating the last big chocolate chip cookie, grown slightly stale, but homemade, and a handful of semi-sweet chocolate bits. Someone pointed out to me that Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” is for that purpose, so people especially in New Orleans can go all out in whatever debauchery they love, and then give it all up for Lent. Somehow, that bit of information always eluded me. I knew they did it, as loud and long as possible, but I never realized its connection to Lent.
The result of my sacrifice, so far, is that every time I see chocolate or have the opportunity, like today, to turn down a hot fudge sundae, I think about Jesus and my commitment to him. I believe my attention will be more riveted on him in the coming weeks because of it. I will spend more time in prayer, meditation, and Bible reading.
I grew up as a Baptist, and we didn’t do Ash Wednesday or Lent. I have been a Methodist for over thirty years, but have been paying close attention for only sixteen years--I fell in love with God in March, 1994, just before Easter. (Here’s a link to that story.) So I am still learning.
As I learn more about him, I see how wondrous his love is, how tender and precious. And I understand that this unfathomable love is the reason for the miracle of atonement through his son Jesus. I do not deserve it and never could, but I am forgiven and have a healed heart filled with sweet, quiet--sometimes loud--joy. And that is my strength.
Here are links to a couple of posts I wrote in previous years about Lent. I invite you to read them!
The picture comes from this site: www.stbs.org.uk/