Does it make me seem like a downer to admit that Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite observances of the Christian year? As an introvert, I’m prone to introspection, and I like the imagery and metaphor of ashes reminding us of our mortality, focusing us on repentance and reconciliation. But I guess the greatest attraction for me is the hope that lies just around the corner. We spend forty days fasting (in whatever meaning we give that), to be shaken out of our darkness with the bright and loud light of the Easter sunrise (Son-rise?). Isn’t that a lot like life? We spend a lot of time contemplating the darkness and brokenness of our world, only to be jarred at times by its irresistible divine beauty and mystery.
Many choose to give up something for the season, a habit or joy that helps us to learn to surrender to self and focus instead on devotion to God. Last year I tried (and failed,as I knew I would) to give up negativity. But the exercise had the desired effect, to make me think about my own attitude and to turn it when I could. It was a big test, like asking for patience and having it tried continuously. Within an hour of declaring my intentions last year, we discovered a roof leak, leading me to sarcastically proclaim, “Yay, we’re getting a new roof!” How’s that for a positive spin?
This year, there are plenty of things I should probably lose, but instead, I’m thinking of gaining. My hope is to add the discipline of writing daily. I’m learning that writing is the best way for me to reflect, to clear my head, to focus my day, and to center my life. It would probably be a good idea to get to work on my sermon for Sunday as well, considering we’re at the mid-week point!
Interestingly enough, my sermon will focus on the wilderness, those points on our journey where we feel lost and alone. Just as Jesus was driven into the wilderness after his baptism and before he began his public ministry, we all face times when we confront temptation, isolation, doubts, perhaps even unto a “dark night of the soul”.
As we journey inward and confront our own darkness, may we also be opened to the beauty within, finding that divine likeness in which we were created and continue to grow towards. When all is hopeless, may we hang onto to the promise of Easter, just around the corner, and trust that time in the wilderness will bring us strength and faith for what is to come.