We made the kids go to church last night. We made them eat dinner early so we wouldn’t be late; we made Allie miss soccer practice; we made them sit in the “big service” with us; and we made them get soggy soot on their foreheads–“It feels weird,” Sam said. Why would we torture our poor children like this? Because it is Lent. And yesterday was Ash Wednesday. We made them Google “Ash Wednesday” so they would know why the heck we were dragging them into church on a Wednesday night to get dirty. “Cause we do bad things and have to say sorry for them, ” Ben tells me. (Cliff Notes: Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of blessing ashes from Palm Trees and placing them on the foreheads of people and saying, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”. It marks the 40 day period of fasting and repentance we call Lent).
That’s right. Cause we do bad things. Cause some bad things are big and some are small, but they are all bad. And all of those bad things are the things that make us feel bad. The things that make us hang our head in shame; the things that keep us from feeling good about our relationships; the things that make us feel guilty, and lonely, and desperate. Try as we might, we can’t think our way back into right living, we have to say, “Sorry”. Sometimes, we need to say sorry to our spouse, or a friend. Sometimes to an acquaintance. Sometimes to a stranger. Sometimes, even to ourselves. And always to Jesus.
Have you ever noticed how quickly a conversation ends when you say, “It was my fault. I’m sorry.” Crickets. There just isn’t anything anyone can say to that. Just, ok. Cool. You own it. You are sorry. And it’s kind of the same with Jesus. When we are like, “Hey, Jesus. My bad. That is sin. My fault. I am sorry.” He’s like, “Yep, cool. Forgiven.” But the thing is, Jesus, being God and all, and pretty much doing anything He wants, is like, “And I’ll go ahead and one up that. Not only will I accept your apology, I will remind you that I went all out I died for you; and because of that, I’m not just gonna forgive, I’m gonna forget.” Boom. Not only do we get the knowledge of forgiveness, we get the feeling of a total do-over; clean slate. Psalm 51:10 (The Voice) “Create in me a clean heart, O God; restore within me a sense of being brand new!”
For many years, I’ve given up something for Lent. It seems pretty safe to give up some chocolate or soda or coffee or something. And, dude, if that’s your vice, and it means something powerful for you, Jesus is smiling ear to ear that you would think it important to give that up for Him. But this year, as I look back, at all of the grace, forgiveness, mercy and peace He has given me in the last year or so, I thought, “This year, I’ll commit to give instead of give up.” I am so, so far from perfect. So undeserving of all Christ has given me, but I am going to try. I am going to try to give forgiveness where it is due; give undivided attention to my children and my spouse; give the chocolate or the cup coffee to a stranger. Because when I give, it takes the focus off me, and reminds me of all I have been given.Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.