But this year, instead of enjoying a romantic meal, I will be putting ashes on people’s heads and reminding them that they will die someday. I will be beginning a fast of sorts, which means no wine and chocolate for forty days. Sigh.
I wish that Ash Wednesday did not fall on Valentine’s Day. But I wouldn’t consider skipping Ash Wednesday for Valentine’s Day (and not just because I can’t!).
The Ash Wednesday service is a powerful way to start Lent. And Lent is an important part of the Christian year. As the Prayerbook says, it is a time for self-examination and repentance, and we all need that. The fact is, I act, and fail to act, in ways that obscure God’s presence in my life and prevent me from sharing in God’s mission to the world. Lent is a time to be honest about that, and to work on it.
That can sound a little depressing, but I don’t experience Lent as depressing. On the contrary, I experience Lent as liberating. First, Lent means I don’t have to pretend that all is right in my world and in my relationship with God. The opportunity to be honest with myself and with others is a great gift.
Even more importantly, Lent is a season of hope. We engage in our Lenten disciplines not as a kind of self-imposed punishment for what has gone wrong, but as part of our aspiration to make things better. We do what we can to improve our relationship with God and with each other, and we do that because we know that improvement is possible.
If we take Lent seriously, if we strive to have a Holy Lent, we will not enjoy every minute of it. But we will grow a little closer to God. We will know a little more joy. We will experience a little bit of new life. And that is a very good reason to give it a try!!