I don’t have ashes on my forehead, and for years, my faith journey rejected the idea of such a public and, to me—at the time— meaningless, ritualistic display.
But, I found that, as I get older—for the past 15 years or so—I’ve begun to reclaim some of the faith symbolism I grew up with and discarded as a young adult.
By observing Lent, I take time to reflect on my sins and my need of a Savior, as well as rejoice in knowing that I have that savior in Christ.
What Is Lent?
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the season during the church calendar that corresponds to the 40 days—not counting Sundays—Christ was in the wilderness, before beginning his earthly ministry. Just as the Lord wrestled with temptation, Christians that follow Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, and other traditions observe Lent as a time of fasting, self-denial, and struggle with their own temptations.
Some Christians give things up for Lent, which is how our family observed it when I was growing up. I typically gave up my favorite candy bar. It’s funny, by the time Easter came around, I had often lost my taste for it.
Others take things on as well as give things up—such as almsgiving, or visiting the sick, the elderly, or those in prison.
‘… Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’
Lent has an astonishing way of putting our lives in perspective. The project that’s driving you crazy? The relationship that can’t seem to work? Financial woes? They all pale in comparison next to the end part of Gen. 3:19: “…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
I was raised as an Anglican, and as a young adult became a Pentecostal, then later a Presbyterian. However, Ash Wednesday and Lent mean more to me now than they ever have. Perhaps, it takes lived experience to understand and appreciate some things.
In fact, today, I think I will go to a church near my office—and get ashes.