Lent comes early this year and has caught me a bit unprepared in the sense that I haven’t had time to really reflect on how I will use this season to work on my life. The season begins with Ash Wednesday, a rather serious day, when we place crumbly ashes on our foreheads and hear the words, “From dust you came, to dust you shall return.” Words that point to our mortality.
It seems like I am reminded of my mortality in many ways every day. Having just come back from my daughter’s wedding in France, I was reminded once again that this young baby I once held in my arms is now in the arms of her husband and creating a new life, all her own, as I once did before she was born. While in France I also heard the news that rock star David Bowie had died, another reminder. Later, I was to hear that Glen Frey of the Eagles also died. This can’t be possible, I thought to myself, all those songs about love, romance, adventure, and drugs and rock’n roll find you eventually on your back in a hospital, on an IV drip, one step closer to becoming dust.
David Bowie supposedly knew that he was going to die a year and a half before he did. He even composed new music that hinted at the afterlife and reflected his whole life. I thought to myself that it must be terrible to know that you are going to die and have to prepare for it or wait for it. But then again, on a different level, we all know that we are going to die and none of us gets out of here alive. Lent forces us to look at it, but not in a morbid way or even in a fearful way. It also teaches us “to number our days and apply to hearts to wisdom” as the psalmist says. The ashes on our foreheads aren’t merely a smudge, but they are a cross. A cross that points to the Christian promise that we are redeemed dust and that death will not have the final word. So, we begin Lent on Ash Wednesday and begin a pilgrimage of 40 days, centered around confessions, reflections, meditation, and opportunities to change.
This year our Lenten magnet reflects this. It says,
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I hope this will be a useful reminder for us to look at ourselves instead of critically pointing the finger at others in an attempt to avoid the hard work it takes to be the people not only that we want to be, but that God wants us to be.
My life does need a lot of work all the time if I am going to be effective as a pastor and as a person. So, the 40 days of Lent are an excellent time for me to come to terms with the changes and the opportunities I am given to make a difference in the lives of others, both near and far. Whether you plan to give up something for Lent or do more during this season of reflection and meditation, my hope is that it will lead to some kind of action that will reshape your life and lifestyle in a positive way.