As a Christian I grew up in a very non-liturgical setting in church. Lent was something that was never discussed and Ash Wednesday was something I was not aware of until I was in High School and I met my friend Stephanie on the bus to school and she shared with me that she too was a Christian, she was just Catholic. She put up with my incessant questions of how her faith and mine were different.
I asked her some questions that were probably offensive because I did not understand Catholicism, I only knew what I had heard from various people that Catholics were not really Christians and that they worshiped Mary and the saints and they could not pray directly to God. Of course she was very gracious toward me and humored my questions as best she could on our way to and from school. We spoke of many things but the topic of Catholicism and why they did what they did came up frequently because I was naturally curious.
In my Junior year of High School I made the decision to participate in Lent in a very eclectic effort with my Sunday morning bible Study group. We all were committed to taking part in The Daniel’s Fast during Lent. The Daniel’s fast was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I failed miserably halfway through and I ate all of the things I was not supposed to eat during that time and I felt awful that I could not last and just participate in this fast.
For the next few years following that I made the conscious effort to give up something for Lent and my Sophomore year I gave up energy drinks and soda for Lent. I felt great. I was doing so well but once Lent was over I went right back to consuming everything that was horrible for me to drink.
It was during my Junior year that I joined Wingate Baptist Church and while this church is very baptist in its worship it was also very liturgical in many ways so when Ash Wednesday came around or all of the various holy week services the church participated in them and that was special. I reached a very new sense of Lent and Holy Week and what it was really about and that was surrender, and preparation to celebrate the greatest gift all of humanity was given and that was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. A Risen King. But Lent is the season of pausing and reflection, of solemness and silence for in many Churches the word “Hallelujah” is removed from the mass, or Sunday service and is not sung or spoken until Easter Sunday, the day of singing and celebration.
I want to offer a bit of a different perspective on Ash Wednesday because while it is the day that we affirm our humanity and the certainty that one day we all will die and shove off this mortal body that will decay and turn to dust and ashes, I look at this day with joy instead of solemness.
I rejoice that I am human and I have a God who cares deeply for my soul. I rejoice that while I fall short often there is grace when I stumble. I rejoice that I serve a Risen Savior and Lord who is not dead but alive.
The Lord is not calling us to give up menial things like Chocolate and Social Media for 40 days of Surrender, although giving sweets or trivial things up for a period of time is good for cleansing the soul. The Lord is calling us to life long Surrender not just for 40 days but for the rest of our lives and it’s a glorious life to step into.
I rejoice at Ash Wednesday because it is inevitable that this mortal body of mine will die, but my Soul is forever secure in the arms of my Savior. I rejoice because of the Marvelous Grace of my loving Lord. And I sing “Hallelujah! Christ has come! Christ has been crucified! Christ has died! Christ is Risen! Christ will come Again!” I am only Dust and Ashes with a soul, and my life has been forever changed by the fact that I don’t end at dust and ashes, and neither did Christ, but surely as He died so has He risen and given life that is fulfilling and meaningful in the midst of a temporary world.
I am a Soul that has a body that will return to dust and ashes and that is true. My body will die but the soul never will and that is the beauty of this day. I am powerless to change the certainty of the fact that life will end. But the beauty of that is that my soul rests in the hands of a God who protects me, cares for me, and loves me.
Ash Wednesday is not depressing or solemn for me, it’s a day of rejoicing that because of surrender I am safe in the arms of a strong and mighty God.
May the God who sees you and me give you peace and may He bless you richly