“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
– James 4:8
Ash Wednesday is, by far, my favorite church service of the year. Why? Because it ushers me into the season of Lent. And Lent is definitely my favorite season of the year.
I know it may sound crazy to some of you. After all, isn’t Lent a time of sacrifice, a time of taking on the suffering of Jesus? Isn’t it a time for all Christians to deny themselves just to remember His ultimate sacrifice for us?
Well, yes. But it is also so much more than that. I respect my brothers and sisters who view this holy season in that way. It is a tradition that spans generation after generation, and I have a great respect for church tradition.
However, for me, it is more than just sacrifice and denial for its own sake. Lent, for me, is a time of renewal and grace. It is a time in which I can focus on the love and mercy Christ still has for me. And it is a time to remind myself that I am precious to Him.
From where does the season of Lent originate? It is a time, from the ancient church, that people used to prepare for baptism and entrance into the church. It was observed in the 40 days before Easter because all new believers were baptized on Easter Sunday. And the 40 days beforehand were meant to simulate Christ’s time in the wilderness (see Matthew chapter 4.) In order to become part of the church at that time, one had to fast, to pray, to study the scripture, and make a conscious decision to “take up his cross.” Because church membership in that time mostly likely meant persecution and hardship. One did not enter into it lightly.
Over the centuries, the church has held onto this tradition of fasting and prayer. And I am grateful for it. It gives me a time to re-connect with my Savior. While many people still fast or give something up in order to focus on Christ, I am being led this year to “take something on.”
The whole point of the season is to draw closer to Christ and to hear His voice. Instead of making a random decision about what to give up, I have prayed and asked Jesus what I need to do in order to move closer to Him. He has placed a desire in my heart for a deeper and more intentional prayer time each day. And that will be my Lenten journey. What will be yours? How will you spend the next 40 days?
Peace my friends.
You have graced my life with Your salvation message. I confess that I do not always give You the attention You deserve. Please forgive me for my lack of attentiveness to You and Your leadings for this life You have given me. Thank You for this time of renewal in our relationship. Speak to me, and lead me down a path that will bring me closer to You. Help me to draw near to You and to hear Your voice. Have mercy on me during this season, and surround me with Your grace – that I might keep this covenant I make with You today. Protect me from the enemy that would create obstacles and temptations for me. And fill my heart with an intimate knowledge of Your holy presence.
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,
I encourage you friends, to find an Ash Wednesday service in your area today. Make it a priority and go there. Be renewed in your spirit by the presence of our One and Only Savior.