Today, is my birthday, and what better way to celebrate then to go to church and get ashes put on my head, right? ...
Whenever I have joked around about this juxtaposition of holidays that seem to contradict each other, one celebrating life and one celebrating mortality, people seem to feel bad for me, like Ash Wednesday is the worst holiday on the calendar and oh, poor Becca, won't get to have a birthday this year.
I am on the other side of the spectrum and think this is the best! I cherish and look forward to Ash Wednesday every year. I enjoy the symbol of the imposition of ashes, you can read a great explanatory article by the Methodist church here. It is a time that I get to go to church and reflect about who I am, my human sin, and where I was last year. I realize this is depressing, but it is ok to be in touch with sad emotions as well as happy ones. Ash Wednesday service is quiet, and still so I can hear deep down into my soul and see my flaws and failings but also see the Lords grace and forgiveness. When I think about each of my mistakes that I made the past year (because, really, I am only human!) I then see how my Father forgave me and how it was all ok. Aa with any tradition, (advent, lent, birthdays) we are able to look back and know where we stood as a person, where we were on the road called life, each year.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. Stealing from Relevant Magazine, Lent comes from the latin prefix, "to lengthen." As the days begin to get longer and warmer as spring comes, we are asked to intentionally slow down and think of our sin and then especially our forgiveness. We are counting down to the joyous celebration of Easter and of our risen Savior. We are remembering that we can not walk this world alone and we are not alone.
Many people give things up, or now there is the new practice of "adding", during Lent. I have done this as long as I can remember, giving up anything and everything from scrambled eggs to hitting my little brother. You can see how there may be a range of usefulness and learning from these fasts. I have also adding things like a daily devotional and more tithing; these usually have been more applicable to my life. Either way, I think the important thing is to be more intentional about recognizing dependence on the Lord, our sins and the hope that comes along with forgiveness. Psalms 32 says it better than I ever will be able to:
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,