For someone who now lives on a shoestring budget and whose activities have been reduced to class, rehearsal, studying, practicing, and sleeping (with eating in there somewhere), the idea of giving something up seems a little redundant. There isn’t much I haven’t given up, whether by choice or not. But I’ve decided to give something up for Lent because I want to be serious about it this year. I am giving up sleeping in past 7 am. The reason is to make sure I give myself time to get with God in the morning. If I’m rushing around, usually it’s the Bible reading and reflection that I tend to cut off my “getting ready” list and then my whole day ends up being off kilter. Anybody relate?
Anyway, this post is about Ash Wednesday. The reason I like Ash Wednesday is because it’s so weighty. The only day that I consider weightier than Ash Wednesday is Good Friday. Both days are solemn. Sobering. Very reflective.
So often in the Christian community I feel that admitting sin is uncomfortable. For all parties. There has been plenty of dialogue about how, especially within church, we shouldn’t be afraid to confess our sins to others and be raw and honest. Words have been spoken, but I still don’t think it’s happening. I’m guilty myself on both sides. I have trouble confessing my sin and sometimes I feel uncomfortable if others confess theirs to me. It’s something I’m trying to work on, since it seems to be a pretty crucial factor in not only community building, but a healthy spiritual journey.
Ash Wednesday is an entire day set aside for us to sit in our filth. That may sound harsh, but it’s necessary. What do we do when we know there is something we don’t want to face? We avoid it. Ash Wednesday is a day for us to confront the ugly. The uncomfortable. It’s not a day for self-pity or anger (or arrogance if you think your sins aren’t that bad). It’s a day for looking at yourself hard in the mirror. It’s a day for accepting what you are compared to God. Not who you are. And not what you are compared to others – don’t make that mistake. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.
I like Ash Wednesday because it’s the one day that everyone is expected to acknowledge their sin. And I believe it’s so important to acknowledge it. Why? For a few reasons. First, it knocks you off the pedestal you or someone else has put you on. Second, it recalibrates your assessment of yourself, a re-appraisal. Third, and most importantly, it magnifies the significance of Jesus dying on the cross. It’s not just a story you try to believe in and live by day-to-day. On Ash Wednesday you understand how that one event – that one day – saved your life. Ash Wednesday gives you the opportunity to relive that mind-blowing promise as fresh as the day you first accepted Jesus.
So take some time today. Reflect on your sin. It’s the one thing every single human being has in common with each other. We’re all sinners.