THE ‘LET’ OF LENT – ASH WEDNESDAY
Wednesday, February 17th
Read James 4:6-17.
Lament and mourn and weep.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.
James 4:9 (NRSV)
Here is where our yearly Lenten journey begins: Ash Wednesday, the time we remember that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return” (Genesis 3:19). We take time to recognize how fleeting and fragile our lives are, as we confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and try to repent of our broken ways.
Today, our spiritual practice is found in the instruction of James, to “Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.” We have an opportunity to examine ourselves with honesty, humility, and remorse where needed. We grieve our sinful nature, the ways we have not lived as God would have us live. Our Ash Wednesday contemplation is often somber and sorrowful, as we recognize our desperate need for God’s perfecting and redeeming love shown in Christ Jesus.
On one unseasonably warm and sunny Ash Wednesday, I once told my pastor that we had far too nice a day to be somber and sad. He chuckled at my personal example of human nature. When life is going well, when we are feeling serene and joyful, observing Ash Wednesday can seem incongruent and maybe even unnecessary. We may be grateful to God, but how much do we need God when life is good, when we are successful and joyful and content? Why ruin an otherwise uplifting and glorious day with a serious and sorrowful examination, complete with a cross marked in gray ash on our heads?
And that is why we need Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday reminds us of the reason for our Lenten journey – the reason why we take these forty days to deepen as disciples, to examine our lives in the light of Jesus’s love, to change our ways, and to let God perfect us…
We long to experience the discipline of the Lenten season because we have humbly examined ourselves and know how much we need the merciful love of God. We long to draw nearer to God because we have reflected on our lives and understand how wonderful and life-changing God’s love is. We long to follow Jesus and revisit his earthly days because we have once again heard his call. We long to begin this Lenten journey because we find that we are both grateful and needy for God in Christ – through all the joy and junk of life.
My Ash Wednesday contemplation reminds me of this personal story…
Jim had cautioned me several times that I was too close to the door frame when I was backing the car out of the garage. I inwardly resented that he doubted my driving abilities. Couldn’t he see how confident and capable I was? I had come quite close to the frame numerous times but had never left a scratch! Then one day, I heard a sickening crunch as I was backing out. Inside our house, Jim also heard the noise and quickly appeared to examine the damage to the door frame, my car, and my pride.
He reacted with compassion, never saying, “I told you so.” Instead, he was genuinely and kindly more concerned about me than the damage done; he was more ready to fix what needed to be repaired and restored than how it happened. When I continued on my way, I wept both tears of shame and tears of gratitude. I am always grateful for Jim’s love, but in times like these, I am overwhelmed to be loved like this. My love for him deepens with humility, honor, gratitude, tenderness, and devotion.
Because he loves me at my worst, I want to become my best.
May our God of all love, compassion, and forgiveness shown in Christ Jesus draw us near, perfect our ways, and deepen our love this Lenten season.
Our reading for tomorrow is Psalm 19.
Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com