“You are dust and to dust you shall return.” - Genesis 3:19
We mark the beginning of Lent with ashes. During Lent, we enter a period of self-reflection and repentance. We often call this dying to self, but it’s really dying to the parts of our lives that are not of God. We practice this through the six weeks of Lent, looking forward to Easter and the resurrection when we celebrate new life in Christ. By turning away from, letting go of, shedding parts of our lives that are not of God, we open the door for the Holy Spirit to cleanse us and transform us more and more into the image and likeness of Jesus. Or to put it another way, more and more into our true selves, the self that God intends us to be from the foundations of the world. Lent is a spiritual discipline of death and resurrection that we practice each year, reminding us of many essential parts of the Christian life: God’s power and our frailty; our constant need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; the importance of recentering our lives around Jesus, etc.
Ashes are a beautiful symbol of this. This Lent I am going to give up self-criticism. I am going to work on it by using a prayer book (Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community by Pádraig Ó Tuama), and by recognizing when I am being self-critical and intentionally rewording those thoughts to be not self-critical. This will be difficult. It will require retraining my brain to think differently—constant repentance. I hope it will be the death of a decades-long bad habit. Just as a forest sprouts new life out of the ashes of a fire, so I hope that my Lenten discipline will burn away my self-critical thoughts and the Holy Spirit will raise me to new life out of the ashes.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I hope you will join me on Zoom at 9am or 7pm for a brief Ash(less) Wednesday service where we will reflect on our need for repentance during Lent and our need for new life in Christ at Easter. We will remember the symbol of Ashes and receive a blessing for our Lenten journey.
Blessings in Christ,