Why is this coming Wednesday important in the life of the Christian Church? If you answered, Ash Wednesday, you got it right. Yes. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, this coming February 9th. Many will go to church for the imposition of special Lenten ashes. There are some traditions that skip this part. However, most recognize the beginning of Lent and use the term Ash Wednesday.
So what’s special about Lenten ashes, apart from the way they are prepared? What’s the big deal? What do these ashes call to mind? See for yourself. Here are three related aspects of Lenten ashes to carry through the 40-day Lenten period:
Lenten Ashes and Repentance
Think of repentance as experiencing genuine sorry for your sin before God and then making a full turn from it. Sometimes, in our glib, fast-paced world, it’s easy to say, “I’m sorry,” and keep on going. Sometimes, it’s even better to say, “I’m sorry,” to get past an error of judgment. Just say it, appease people, and move on to the next thing, seems to be what society says. In either case, it doesn’t matter if you’re truly sorry. Who is checking? Who is checking to see if there is any change in your actions that will demonstrate that you repented and didn’t just utter words?
With God it’s different. Repentance and change go together. When you say to God, “I’m sorry,” it must be with heartfelt sorrow that results in change. Or, at a minimum, a sincere desire for change that you constantly seek after. Otherwise, Lenten ashes are just a sham, a ritual. Do you have time for that in your busy life?
Lenten Ashes and Humility
Repentance requires humility. It’s not easy to say, “I’m sorry,” and mean it, because it suggests a deficiency on your part. You have missed something. You’ve messed up in some way. Yet, it is the only valid posture before God, the Great I Am. It is the only relevant posture before the One who knows you inside and out. You see, humility before God shows that you understand your finiteness before God’s infiniteness. Thus, you are not competing with God or seeking to score points with God. You are simply coming to rest in God through Jesus Christ, and lay all of your inadequacies and insecurities before God for God to change. That’s good news.
In a world that increasingly demands more of you than you can give, where everything you do is under a microscope, where it seems that people are waiting for you to make just one slip, what better news is there? Allow the Lenten ashes to remind you that you can be humbly real with God. Step back, defer to God’s greatness, and humbly rest.
Lenten Ashes and Your Humanity
“You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). That’s a sobering statement. That, or a variation of it, is made at the imposition of Lenten ashes. It’s a sobering reminder that you are not on this earth forever. At some point, you will die. Therefore, it is a reminder to live well, doing what God wants for the glory of God. It is also a signal to live in harmony with this earth from which you have come. Very importantly also, it is a perspective setter. You’re not here forever, so don’t try to do everything as if you had forever time. Be prayerfully realistic in your planning and your responsibilities.
It’s easy to try to do everything when you have a great sense of responsibility and a high level of commitment. However, you are a human being. What is God calling you to do? That’s what you need to focus on doing.
Whether or not your church gives out Lenten ashes on Ash Wednesday, and whether or not you go to get them, the lessons are there for you. These lessons that have extra prominence during Lent are foundational to your relationship with God. Repent, be humble, and remember your humanity as you begin the Lenten journey. Do this throughout life. You’ll decrease your stress as you place your confidence in and seek to please God. As you draw closer to God, you will find that you have more confidence in the special you that God has made and you’ll live with greater peace.
It’s almost Ash Wednesday, the beginning of another Lent. The Lenten ashes are kind of a big deal, aren’t they?
There’s still time to register for our upcoming Lent retreat. Click the image above to find out more and register.