Lent is a season of intentional preparation for Easter. How do you best prepare for the Resurrection? By dying to self and being raised with Christ. The question, then, is this: what needs to die in me? What part of my life has started to overtake the areas in my life that should belong to the Kingdom of Jesus? What corner of darkness has become so commonplace in my heart that I don’t even notice it anymore? Though I follow Jesus and trust Him as my savior, I also know that I’m not yet shaped like Him. We must daily die to self because darkness spreads like weeds. Weeds unchecked take over. I need Lent because I need the structure of fasting, reflection, repentance, and prayer — not to re-earn my salvation, but to purposefully make room for God to shape me into the likeness of His Son by removing the garbage that accumulates in my heart.
We will be trying out something new at our church: our first ever Ash Wednesday service. Though Ash Wednesday has been around for many years, it is brand new for us. Admittedly, the option of putting a little clump of ash on your forehead is a little strange. In fact, it’s very strange. We don’t see this happen within the flow of our culture. Then again, we’ve all seen the dude who paints his face with the team colors and the girl who puts the team logo rub-on tattoo on her cheek. Maybe we’re not as averse to symbol as we think we are.
Ash Wednesday reminds us of our humanity because it symbolizes the fact that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19). Ash Wednesday symbolizes remorse for sin and is the first step toward repentance (Job 42:6). It isn’t happy, but it is joyful. It isn’t uplifting, but it is encouraging. The reality is this: throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is always calling us to realize our ongoing need for Him. We are broken and bound in chains, but the grace of Jesus heals us and sets us free.
That kind of formation doesn’t just “happen”. It takes some intentional moves on our part. Enter Lent. Enter Ash Wednesday. The effect is profound as Jesus takes the centre of our hearts. So… get ready for Easter to take an even deeper meaning as we realize the Resurrection power of Jesus that is at work in our lives.
(This year, Ash Wednesday is March 5, 2014).