Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the season on the liturgical calendar called Lent. Many Christian traditions participate in different activities over the next 40+ days. Some will receive ashes on their forehead. The ashes come from the palm leaves used in last year’s Palm Sunday celebration. The ashes are a sign to indicate that we were created from dust and we will return to dust; they also symbolize grief because of our sin. The 40 day period is a time when many will participate in fasting (abstaining); primarily from food, but several people will choose something else to fast from, such as social media or alcohol. This is a time that leads to Easter, which on the Christian calendar marks the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Now I know that not all of the readers of this blog participate in religious practices. And I know that many of my readers who are Christian do not participate in Ash Wednesday or Lent. However, for the past several years, it is a practice I have added to my spiritual routine. And I have been greatly blessed because of it.
So this year, I am going to write a blog about my Lenten journey. 40 posts in 47 days (I will not post on Sundays). What will I be writing about? Good question…
I am weary. I am tired. I am in despair. I am troubled because I see in too many people who claim the same faith I do an Americanization of that faith. Too many people put the emphasis on “American” in the term “American Christian.”
And I realize that I am guilty of this, as well. I want to be a person of reconciliation. I want to be a person who remembers where my faith should dwell (although it often doesn’t). I want to remember that my primary allegiance is not to a country or a political ideology. I want to remember that relationship is more important than being right.
At the same time, I want to be a person that lives what I believe. I want to stand up for what is right. I want to stand up for those who are marginalized. And I want to know the best ways to do this. Ways that are not knee-jerking emotional responses, but are responses to my spirituality.
I want to learn how:
- To break away from putting faith and trust in civic government.
- To remember that earthly power is temporary.
- To remember my citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- To open my eyes to the marginalized and oppressed people that I see every day.
- To remember that I am called to love—the person of color, the foreigner, the poor, the LGBT+ community, those who vote differently.
- To hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people.
- To remember that hope is stronger than despair.
Today is Ash Wednesday. “From dust we came, to dust we return.” “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” I have become arrogant. I have trusted in my own power and influence; and in that of those who agree with me. I have believed that the answer to the world’s problems lies in the world’s power. I have begun to believe that my life, power, and influence will be permanent.
I need to remember that I am truly weak. I do not have the power to accomplish any of this. But I believe in someone who can. So what do I do next?
My first step is simple and seems entirely insignificant. I confess my sin. I allow ashes to be put on my forehead. I say that my life is temporary and my sin is real. I say that I will trust in God before I trust in anyone else.
It is a small step, but I must take it. Because if I don’t I will perpetually stay in the same place of frustration and despair.
It is the first day. I am already weary. But I am too tired to stay in this same place. So here I go with my first step.