So if you actually thought I’d let the beginning of Lent go by without writing something you were mistaken (and you might not know me very well). I was raised giving things up for Lent and then at some point I learned that it might be good to not give something up but to do something extra. I remember thinking that this might’ve been someone just trying to put a positive spin on Lent – or maybe the person that decided this wanted an excuse to NOT give stuff up. It did make sense that doing some extra reading or some extra kindnesses would be easier than giving up chocolate.
It seems to me now – years later – that we shouldn’t have one without the other. If we give something up that is a distraction or an addiction (or at least a vice) that leads us away from God, then we should certainly replace those things with something that leads us and our families towards Him. The focus of the giving up is NOT on what we’ve given up. The focus should be on what we’ve gained by freeing ourselves of what we’ve given up. Want to know why you craved donuts the minute you gave them up? I’m going to venture a guess that you were focused more on the giving up than what your relationship with God was gaining, and that you didn’t replace it with something much more significant to your walk with God that you looked forward to just as much as the donut.
Ash Wednesday is called such because as the 40 days before Resurrection Sunday begin, a priest would burn last year’s Palm Sunday palms and wipe them onto the foreheads of those present as a symbol of repentance, humility and sacrifice, and say something like “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” When I was young those words struck me as something of a threat – you were nothing before, and you will die nothing. But to our creator dust isn’t nothing. “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen 2:7) Dust is the stuff of life when it is combined with the breath of God. So the Priest here is saying, I think, you were only dust before and God gave you life, so when you die he can give you life again… but “unto dust you shall return” sounds so much cooler. I am reminded that the giving up of life (Jesus’) brought a new and better gift (Life!) to us.
Christine Sine (whom I admire and enjoy reading for so many reasons) wrote this today on her GodSpace blog which you can find here :
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
All that is not of God must die
All that is crushed will be restored
All that is lost will be made new
God may we repent of ways that do not serve you
And admit to the tensions that tell us where we need to change
Christ is coming walking towards the cross
God may we see him clearly
Pouring out love
Pouring out mercy
Pouring out peace
May we kneel before him in humble adoration
May we take up our cross and follow
And walk with Christ into the ways of life