The Next 40 Days...
There are six weeks between this day and Easter. This day is called Ash Wednesday. It’s a day that many Christians decide that for the next 40 days they are going to give up something. They decide that they are going to sacrifice something that they love or rely on until Easter. Most Catholics give up beef on Fridays. But the real question is, what is this day really about? Should I celebrate or partake in Ash Wednesday services? What is Lent? Six weeks really? Don’t I have to be Catholic?
Well let’s start with what is Ash Wednesday. As I said before Ash Wednesday marks the first day of a six week period when Christians prepare for Easter. Many Christians will go to church and have ashes rubbed on their foreheads as a reminder of a few things. 1. That they need to repent for their sins. This is symbolic of the biblical practices of showing repentance by sprinkling one’s body with dust and ashes as found in the Book of Job. Early Christians did the same. 2. The practice of placing ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross as a sign of repentance started around the 10th century. Thus reminding them that death is inevitable. Which means we return to the dust in which we were formed from. And in this acknowledging that Christ is our savior and can save us from death.
As you may or may not know already, Ash Wednesday is the day right after Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday being a day were some take part in food, fun and craziness. (Mardi Gras) Ironic isn’t it that it worked out this way? Fat Tuesday being the last day to be foolish before the start of a six week period of self-sacrifice and atonement for our sinful behavior.
So, what’s next? Now we know what Ash Wednesday is, let’s talk about whether or not you should participate in an Ash Wednesday service. Well, that’s up to you. Honestly, it is. I personally have not been to one. I can’t tell you what you should do. I think this is a personal decision. There is no biblical commandment to do so. It’s a spiritual decision. That’s about all I have to say about that.
Lastly I want to talk about Lent. As we discussed before, this is the period of six weeks prior to Easter where Christians give up something that may cause them to not completely focus on Christ. Most Catholics give up red meat on Fridays in exchange for fish.
The point is to give up something you love or rely on as a sacrifice to Christ and to prepare yourself for Easter. A few years back I gave up caffeine and chocolate. Let me just say it was a painful 40 days. I did not realize how much I relied on those two things to get me through each day. Instead of the chocolate and caffeine I should have been relying on Christ’s strength.
With all of this being said, when you wake up and had a chance to read this long drawn out blog post and had a bit of coffee to wake up, take a moment and think about if Ash Wednesday and Lent is something you should partake in. Psalm 51 is one of my favorite scriptures in the entire Bible. Psalm 51:17 says: “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”
We are all already broken. When we sacrifice things that we rely on, whether it be chocolate, caffeine, candy, alcohol, red meat, tobacco, social media or whatever it is it breaks us even more. We go through withdrawals. Withdrawals come with all kinds of pain and discomfort. How do we combat that pain and discomfort? We should rely on the Lord to get us through it. This helps us in becoming closer to Him. This helps us to become introspective. This helps us see that our sacrifice is just a blip on the radar compared to His sacrifice. This helps us prepare our hearts and minds for Good Friday and remembering why Christ died on a cross for our sins. This also helps us celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday reminding us that Chris not only defeated death but crushed the devil under His heal.
Now, you know what Ash Wednesday is, you know what Lent is all about. If you are going to make the decision to participate in Lent I will pray that your mind be focused on your goals and that you become closer to the Lord throughout your adventure.
If you are looking for some literature to read during the next 40 days…try Aha by Kyle Idleman. There is a companion challenge called 40 Days of Lasting Change: An Aha Challenge. Good Luck! And God Bless!