Doesn’t everyone need a bit of Lent in their life?
Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. I’ve never paid much attention to the tradition. The last time I saw a person practicing Lent, I was in Atlanta, and he was my boss. Acknowledging that he did something good proves that people are not all bad and puts more emphasis on why I am led to join the millions of Christians who are actively observing Lent in 2023.
Maybe my reasons are far more spiritual than I can articulate in a one-page essay. They may be connected supernaturally to the college quasi-revivals sprouting up nationwide. (I am praying for all the students and that they will continue to be spirit-led and not emotionally-led for however long this lasts.) Whatever the reason, I am all-in on Lent this year.
The first thing I had to do as a novice was to learn a little about the tradition. Most of my research came from Bible Study Tools and Biblia websites. I thought this was primarily a Catholic tradition, which makes sense because now that I think of it, my former boss was a member of the African Methodist church which I believe has Catholic roots. Beyond those minor facts, Lent is the forty days before Easter (Resurrection) Sunday, during which Christians do penance, fast, and pray to prepare themselves for our Lord’s resurrection and remind us of His own fast of forty days before His Passion.
Evidently, Lent used to begin on Sunday until Pope Gregory switched to Wednesday during the 5th century. He reasoned that Christ’s followers would have the significant “40 days” to pray and fast prior to Easter Sunday. Some Christians will abstain from meets on Fridays during Lent or at least for one meal on the first day of Lent and on Good Friday. They can forego other foods if they like to. The fasting is personal. Christians will also fast non-dietary indulgences like social media, television, or any habit that requires time better suited to a strict focus on our frailty as humans, our need for a savior, and the sacrificial love of Jesus.
Jesus knew his mission, which is also our mission, as you may have learned by reading my posts on purpose. Because He knew the end game, God in the flesh spent forty days fasting and praying to build up his faith. We can do this too. He became so strong in faith that nothing offered to him on earth could lure him away from his purpose to save us. Satan gave it his best try, but Jesus never wavered. He stuck to the Word and did not sin or give in. Jesus prevailed.
Lent is a way to gain that strength and power corporately. For forty days, I will know that other saints are doing the same thing and donning the same ashen cross on our foreheads. That was the first indication that my ex-boss was doing something unfamiliar to me. On an Ash Wednesday, he strutted around the office with a smidge of ash on his warm ivory-toned skin.
Traditionally, a Catholic priest or pastor will use ashes already blessed for the purpose of Lent to draw a cross on the person’s forehead while uttering, “remember that you are dust, and to dust, you will return.” I attend a wonderful nondenominational church, and my pastor has not observed Ash Wednesday or Lent to this extent in the past, so I am planning to join another church for the observance. This year I will acknowledge Lent even if I have to take my incense ashes, mixed with oil, and draw a cross on my forehead.
The ash signifies that we are all sinners, and repentance was made available through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, hence the cross. The ashes also symbolize our humble origins—clay from the earth—how our bodies will decompose when we pass away and the necessity of repenting when we sin.
Repentance constitutes the second most significant factor in Lent. Much of my time will be spent reflecting inwardly. I will ask myself tough questions about sin in my life. Are there sins I have not confessed to because I did not know they were sins back then? With wisdom comes clarity, and I have since learned that some of the things I used to do were not pleasing to God. So I need to think that through and take some time to get that covered by the blood of Jesus, which washes away all sins. I need to review any areas where I am toying with temptation. We all know our weaknesses. Am I putting myself into situations where I am prone or likely to miss the mark as a Christian or cause someone else to stumble? I need to think about that, confess it, and eliminate those near occasions to sin.
Lastly, I need to check my humility. Am I puffed up or pretentious in any way? Do I seek to be in control, even with God? Lent is an excellent time to see the ugly stuff, realize it is dust, connected to my flesh and its unpredictable ways, and shake that mess off. Furthermore, it is time to take accountability for my poor actions and cooperation with the devil. In the words of the minister and professional counselor, Craig D. Lounsbrough, “When at the bottom looking up, the main question may not be how do I get out of this hole, but in reality, the main question may be how do I get rid of the shovel I used to dig it.”
Genesis 2:7 – “God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
As I observe and become enlightened, I will pray. I will ask questions starting with reflections about my birth and even before birth. I know my parents did not plan. How has that knowledge affected me? Taking note of God’s response to this question and others is critical for growth and reinvigoration. (Read Jeremiah 1:5)
Psalm 103:14 – “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Lent is also a time of refocusing on Jesus and comparing myself to Him. He did tell us to be like Him. So how do I compare myself to Jesus? By reading the “red letter” chapters of the Bible and taking notice of His Words and their meaning, Jesus’ actions and motives. Forty days is an adequate time to do a good study. There may need to be more time. I will see.
Romans 8:2 – “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me [us] free from the law of sin and death.”
The blessing of ash Wednesday is the remembrance that humans formed of dust, and returning to dust allowed sin to enter paradise, which brought the curse of death upon us. But on Good Friday, Jesus took all our sins upon himself while nailing us to the cross. He paid the price for our sins. No more priests have to offer sacrifices on our behalf because Jesus became the sacrificial lamb once and for all!
Then on Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from that grave, like he said he would, and through our belief in his death, burial, and resurrection, we have the assurance of eternal life and a home with him in heaven, in new bodies that will never corrode.
“We follow this sequence in Scripture: The First Adam received life, the Last Adam is a life-giving Spirit. Physical life comes first, then spiritual—a firm base shaped from the earth, a completion coming out of heaven. The First Man was made out of the earth, and people since then are earthy; the Second Man was made out of heaven, and people now can be heavenly. Let’s embrace our heavenly ends in the same way that we’ve worked from our earthy origins.” (1 Corinthians 15:45-49 MSG)
Even now, Christians should say that we are of our Father through Jesus Christ. We are set free and no longer bound by sin or tied to death. Saints should live free of debt, worry, poverty, depression, and other sicknesses as overcomers to reach this lost world. We are the ones who can heal the land.
Romans 8:2-4 – “Because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, so that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
As Christians, we know there is momentary suffering in this life because God originally designed us for eternal life, and our ancestors, in a garden, messed that up really badly. They brought death into paradise, which resulted in our bodies returning to dust when we died. (Read Genesis 3:19)
The only cool thing is that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we avoid hell and eternal torment and are raised to a new life in glorious new bodies just as Christ was resurrected and ascended to heaven. So although we acknowledge our evil deeds, it builds up our gratefulness for the risen Savior and the glorious celebration to come. This Lenten season is basically the pre-season for the saint’s glorified “Super Bowl” ending. It is truly a time of remembrance, rededication, and revelation.
“Everyone wants to go to heaven, but just not now.” – Thomas Delaney.
If you die today, do you know where you will spend eternity? If you are a reader and do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior. You can. Tell God you are sorry and that you need His help. Ask God to forgive your sins and tell Him you want to make His son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of your life forever. That’s it. Now you need to find a good church home where they unabashedly preach the Word through Scriptures and lift the name of Jesus. Many have services online, which is an okay place to start, but eventually, you will need to get into proximity with other Believers.
In closing, I invite everyone to join me in the Lenten season. We can search our ancient paths and let go of things that have hindered us from working more pointedly and successfully for the kingdom of God. (Read Psalm 139:23-24)
Thank you for reading. Really,