Ash Wednesday was a part of my childhood and still matters to me today. I grew up in a church and a family that honored the Lenten season. Lent has always been a time to reflect, repent and draw closer to Jesus in the 40 days (excluding Sundays) that lead up to Easter. Or more importantly, these 40 days lead up to the Ressurection of Jesus!
I find this extra special this year that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. Why?
Well, I believe the greatest love story ever told is God sending his son to die on the cross for me and for you. God loved us before we were even born. And, he loves us today…even in our sinful nature.
The Ashes of Ash Wednesday
You might be wondering what the ashes of Ash Wednesday are all about.
Well, the ashes typically are burned palm branches from the Easter before. The palm branches have significance as being laid down on the road as Jesus entered Jersualem.
The ashes are placed on the forehead in the sign of the cross. As a child, I would stare at the ashes on people’s foreheads. I was looking for that cross because sometimes they looked just like smushed thumbprints. I wanted to see the cross and see my connection to Jesus. And, ashes or no ashes, I still want to see the cross and my own connection to Jesus.
So what are we saying when we have ashes placed on our forehead? The cross is like sealing the commitment we are making to pray, repent, reflect and die to ourselves. We are to put our focus on our relationship with Jesus and what gets in our way of that. More simply, we are saying that we are sorry for our sins. We are saying that we will pause to reflect on Jesus and his death on the cross. We commit to use the Lenten season to prepare our hearts and minds for the sacrifice of Jesus and for a new commitment to living for Jesus.
Solemn Peace and Joy
For me, there is a solemn peace about entering the Lenten season. Throughout the year, I confess my sins and repent. I don’t store them up and make a list and wait for Ash Wednesday.
However, if I am being honest, I need moments of intentional pausing in life to slow down and lean into Jesus. Lent allows me this. My Lenten focus is on the sacrifice of Jesus and my own guilt and shame from sin. He was blameless and pure and paid the price for my sins. This acknowledgement quiets my heart.
And, in its own way, the calm and peace from this reflection truly brings me joy!
A Love Letter
In its own way, I see Jesus’ death on the cross as a love letter. I see it as a love letter that promises more.
It is an invitation to enter into relationship with Jesus. This “love letter” is an encouragement to love others like Jesus loved me. It is a commitment to my eternity should I choose to love and follow Jesus.
Pausing To Reflect on Ash Wednesday
This Ash Wednesday and this season of Lent, I will be pausing to reflect on my relationship with Jesus. Additionally, I will be fasting to allow me to focus more clearly on all that God wants me to know and understand about His sending His son to die for me. At the end of the season, I will embrace the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection that we honor on Easter Sunday. My hope and prayer is that this season of Lent, this season of reflection and repentance, draws me closer to Jesus and makes me a better person. I hope that I am filled with a renewed sense of love and empathy as I serve those I am called to serve.
That is also my hope for you. May you feel the love of Jesus so fully, so completely that you have a greater capacity to love and serve others.