Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season known as Lent –– also known as the day where tens of thousands of people are awkwardly stared at for having what seems to be black ink from a busted pen smudged in the form of a cross down the middle of their forehead.
This mark –– the imposition of Ashes –– is unmistakable and signifies much more than a mistaken smudge; it is a symbol that is a painful acknowledgment of our own mortality. Each year, on Ash Wednesday, people gather in churches to receive these ashes, hearing once again, “We are dust and to dust we shall return.” It is in this time when Christians reckon with the pain of death because of sin, while simultaneously knowing that death does not have the last word. We have hope because Jesus put death to death through his resurrection. Lent, then, is about turning from our distractions and trusting once again in the gospel.
I have never been as excited about the Lent season as I am now. Lent has historically been a time between Ash Wednesday and Easter where the Church chooses to abstain –– or fast –– from something. To be frank, abstaining from things that I enjoy is rarely all that enjoyable. So the activity of Lent isn’t appealing to me, but I find the heart of Lent to be extremely alluring. Lent is wonderful because it aids me to abstain from something –– a food, an enjoyment, or an activity –– so that I can create space to be with Jesus. Lent is pleasant because it points me to Jesus.
This hasn’t been the experience of most. For many, Lent was that painful time of the year marked by guilt and frustration and, sometimes, hunger. For others, Lent was a time to earn God’s favor by giving up addictions to chocolate and cravings for meat. But when these things become the end goal, we are left hollow and disappointed.
The point of Lent –– when understood through the lens of the gospel –– is not about what you give up or even if you give up anything. The point is to create intentional space in your life for your relationship with Jesus. Emptying yourself of certain cares of this life to allow God to fill those spaces.
Over the next seven weeks, we are inviting our community into a season of abstaining from busyness –– to slow down to be with Jesus. We are convinced that you can not grow with Jesus on the fly. We are convinced that an overdose of busyness will suffocate your walk with Jesus. James Bryan Smith was right when he said, “The number one enemy of Christian spiritual formation today is exhaustion.”
Over the next seven weeks, we invite you to take a day each week to refrain from busyness: to stop, to rest, to delight in God’s gifts, and to contemplate Him. We will have more blog posts like this one to encourage you on this journey.
May Christ be seen clearly through this season of Lent!