Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ashes to Ashes

Remember, from ash you have come and from ash you will return.


How badly I wanted to stay lying in bed today. Knowing ahead was a 15 hour work day and many minutia to facilitate. In finest and holiest fashion, I get up, bleary eyed and grumbling, and make my way to church to be affixed with emblematic ashes and affronted by my sin.

I have been praying for a few weeks now for what to give up or Lent. I grew up Southern Baptist, went to a Southern Baptist college. Let me just tell you, the So Baps don't do this whole Lent thing. In the name of Christian Freedom, it's not necessary. Fair enough. They're right, it's not necessary. My position in Jesus' mind doesn't change because I do or do not do Lent. But somehow, I find myself a little closer when I choose to stop and look. Lent does that for me.

There's something special to me about the tradition other Christians have laid out generations ago, remembering and celebrating. Fasting and feasting. Mourning and praising. Putting concepts into action to help us experience an inkling of the gamut of emotions associated with Calvary. To remember.

"Bind my wandering hear to Thee" we sang. I am the wanderer, the one always searching. So how do I let Him bind me? How do I find the roundabout that leads from the wrong way back to the right? I fast. This is my first year to try it. And I have the openest of all open hands about it. But I wonder, for me, if there is something there. If observing sacrifice and anticipation, there will be better remembrance.

I don't see Lent as a time to get my diet set straight. I don't believe it to be a time to work on self-improvement. It's taking something I find joy in, good, healthy joy in, and letting it go for a few weeks. It is about fostering anticipation for the return of the joy. And in the meantime, knowing that my every effort to be holy is worthless. Lent doesn't save me. The Resurrection at the end--the celebration of my Savior--saves me. So what better way to practice that image than holding off from something I love to celebrate with for a few weeks? How much more tangible will my joy be when I reinstate a joy-giver as I celebrate the Joy-giver.

Lent and Ash Wednesday have this religious tendency to be skewed. They carry with them the burden of self-deceit that Jesus will love us better or we can be made holier through our sacrifice. Bull. Romans so aptly reminds me that "it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."

Thus far, the discoveries I am making this year are only leading me back to the reality that God is. He is just, He is kind, He is love. And because He is the incarnate of those things, He cannot be more or less of them. Thus, my learning His attributes is for my benefit. It's always about drawing me closer to the Axiom Himself.

I trust in Lent because I trust in Jesus to use Lent for my good. And I pray that for all y'all as well. Whether or not you participate--or care. I pray that Jesus uses this season to reveal Himself to be truer and deeper and more necessary to all of us. Because He is. He is the dear Father and caretaker of us. How overwhelmed I am by the steadiness of Him. He is all that is true. And He proved it by choosing to receive brutality for me. I was the one supposed to be mocked. Whipped. Held down and beaten. They were supposed to make me the helpless one. They ought to have mutilated me.

But instead, I get to sit here with symbolic ashes and remember Him.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

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