Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It’s a day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives. This morning I attended a church service and had a cross of ashes marked on my forehead. As I walked out I felt disgraced. As though everyone would view these ashes like a scarlet letter. Everyone would see me as a sinner. But the ashes on my forehead was me publicly stating my brokenness and my humility before God, and the world around me. And I wasn’t alone. I encountered people at the grocery store, a coffee shop and even the post office that wore the same scarlet letter I did. And as I saw each person with the mark on their forehead I couldn’t help but think we are in this together. The broken, beat down, disgraced and ashamed; no longer hiding in the dark corner afraid to be seen in the light.
Once I got home I began to make my confessions before God. “Lord, if you only knew the secrets of my heart, the sins I am capable of contemplating and the things I have considered against you.” But of course He already knows these things. He knows my heart, my mind, my intentions and yes, even my brokenness.
I plan to use this season of Lent as a time for introspection, self examination and repentance. The three traditional practices are fasting, penitential prayer and almsgiving. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want each of these practices to look like for myself.
Fasting: I know what some of you are thinking…why fast at all?? What’s the point? Well, I choose to fast during Lent because fasting gets my attention. It is a necessary tool for rousing me from my day-to-day sleepwalking. We each need a wake up call of sorts. I fast because when I willingly give up something I delight in but do not, strictly speaking, need, I come closer to participating in, understanding, and reverencing the self-emptying act that is Christ on the Cross. I am choosing to sacrifice something for Lent in order to align myself with the heart, will, and experience of Jesus. So what am I sacrificing? What am I “giving up” and asking God to take my focus away from? What things have kept me from being closer to Him? Sex, drugs and rock n roll….well sort of. For Lent I am fasting from sex and music. Yeah, you heard me right. Two things that have taken over my thoughts and actions as of lately and I’ve found myself many times not hearing the voice of God or choosing to turn away from Him because of these two things. I’ll explain more in the coming days and weeks but I am confident God is trying to get my attention and transform my heart and mind.
Prayer: It’s been almost two months since I started every morning with 30 minutes of silent meditation. My alarm goes off and I sit up in bed. And I say nothing. I do nothing. Just 30 minutes to breathe deeply, invite the Spirit of God into my day and focus. It has been powerful and I plan to continue this. But during Lent I want to go deeper in my prayer life. I want to make more time to bring my own needs and requests to God and ask others to join me in that. I want to pray more often, pray with others more, make specific requests to God and expect that He will speak and show up! As I meditate each day for the next 46 days I want to read over the Gospel accounts of Christ’s arrest, trial and crucifixion; reflecting on His suffering (not on my own) and the tremendous love that the Cross represents. Reflecting on my own sin to see what it cost Him.
Almsgiving: Selfishness. Yeah, I’m guilty of it too. I’m aware that I don’t give as much as receive sometimes. From now until Easter I have many opportunities to express my gratitude for all God has blessed me with. I’ll be giving more of my time, finances and creativity. The first two realizations I had once I trusted Christ 8 years ago was “It’s not all about me” and “it’s not just me and God.” We are a body of believers. We’re in this life, this journey together. The needs of all are the responsibility of the body of Christ and I plan to step up and do my part.
During this season of Lent I desire to repent and re-center my life and heart to what God has for me. I want clean hands and a pure heart. It may take more than 46 days to get there, but it starts today.
Today, I am hopeful as I look in the mirror and witness my own brokenness. I have hope that God will continue to restore and transform me as I move forward in love and truth. I invite you to witness my journey as I share the struggles and celebrations of the days ahead.