Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday – the day that marks the beginning of 40 days of Lent. In the Christian tradition, this is a season of reflection that culminates in the celebration of Easter.
This hasn’t always been a personal tradition of mine. I sort of adopted it around 15 years ago when I began attending a church that followed a variety of liturgical special days that I really knew nothing about, among them, Lent. All I knew about Lent I picked up from my Catholic friends who entered church with perfectly clean foreheads and exited with grey ash smudges they were not supposed to wash off. I remember seeing people around town….the grocery store, the gas station, etc. with similar forehead smudges, and thinking they were trying to “show off” how holy they were. It clearly wasn’t something “my” church did, and was, therefore odd and mysterious.
But here I was, at a protestant church, with seemingly normal, ordinary church folk who were planning an Ash Wednesday service. I was….intrigued….nervous….curious….and determined no one was going to smudge ashes on my forehead!
A few things have changed since then. I now not only participate in this annual experience, but I fully embrace the opportunity to go on a journey with God. Every year is different – some more meaningful than others – but I embrace them all just the same. Sometimes I “give up” something such as coffee or desserts and sometimes I “add” something to my ordinary routine such as increased study or service. These acts are not holy or important in and of themselves….they are just vehicles by which I can remember that I am set apart for God. And it does not make ME holy by doing them….it reminds me of the grace that I walk in every day – with a heightened sense of awareness.
In meditating on the path my Lenten journey would take this year, I wondered what it would be like to blog about these 40 days of Lent. I have no illusions that anyone will actually read this journal, but I feel compelled to write it just the same. Sort of like the beginning of a hike when you only have a slight idea of where you are going and just the basic essentials to get you there…..that’s how I begin this journey. I’m a little nervous, but mostly hopeful about where the path will lead….
If you feel like checking in from time to time, I’d love to have the company.
Tomorrow it begins….