The season of lent has always been confusing for me. I usually feel this pressure to give something up, fail to do so on time, and then just plan to do it next year. Growing up in the Catholic Church, lent was always something that I understood as a time for self-denial and ritual. There didn't seem to be much reflection or scriptural basis behind the fasting from a certain item or the restraining from eating meat on Fridays. As a child I knew that we would go to church to get ashes on our foreheads, but it had no meaning and just made me feel silly. An understanding of lent from this perspective leaves you in the sink hole of legalism and self-righteousness, not in the refreshing streams of grace and the gospel.
This year our family is setting intentional time aside to reflect and repent from the brokenness of our own hearts and the brokenness of this world, but we don't do this without hope! We are looking towards Easter and celebrating the resurrection of Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for our sins.
"But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved..." (Ephesians 2:5)
As we attended our church's ash Wednesday service last night, I was brought to tears as the ashes were placed on my head and the verse above was repeated to me. The reality of Christ's work on the cross became more real. In the OT ashes were a sign of repentance and lament. The ashes on my head were a reminder of my humanity, and the tension we all feel of the already and the not yet.
We are excited to celebrate and reflect upon what Christ has done through this lenten season. This season is not about self-denial and ritual, but rather about feasting on the grace that is possible through a relationship with Jesus!