I was having a conversation with my sister the other day when she randomly invited me to an Ash Wednesday service for February 10th.
My first thought was “It’s here already?”
My second thought was “I don’t want to get ash on my forehead.”
My third thought was “What should I give up for Lent?”
The first is what it is. The second thought I accepted. The third thought, however, I took some more time to think on.
Ash Wednesday marks the seasonal start of the Church’s march toward the cross of Good Friday. To quicken contemplation and piety, believers are encouraged to surrender or suppress something that hinders devotion to God. At least that’s the idea. More or less it’s usually treated either like a Christianized form of New Year’s resolutions or a sabbatical from something we know we really shouldn’t be doing in the first place. And really, this is all understandable when its prevalent thinking is often fixated on what surrendering something is going to cost us.
If, however, we try to see how surrendering puts us upon the way of the cross, then those costs become not so much about losing or letting go of something as being shaped into something; or, as we discover as the cross comes closer into view, into someone.
The cross shows us God at work. As we move toward the cross with attentiveness to Christ, his holiness invites us to thrust aside that which hinders Christ’s image from being formed in us. Should we choose to do so moment by moment, day by day, we begin to gradually encounter a grace that inhabits this way to the cross. It is a grace that molds us in each reverent step.
The way of the cross is a way of worship, a way of becoming upon which Christ’s worth is shaped in us. After some thought, I have decided on something to give up to God. Rather than much dwelling on it, however, I want my faith and energy concentrated on the LORD who is our liberty and life. By the end of this seasonal march, when the Church has again beheld and believed Christ-on-the-cross, may that we will have more closely arrived at being a people in whom God is recognized, received, and revered.