Today is Ash Wednesday. The first day of the season of Lent on the Christian calendar. A day that we are reminded "From dust you came, and to dust you shall return."
As Christians, this is a time of reflection and introspection. It is a 40-day journey that is representative of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. He fasted and was tempted, but most importantly, he prayed. He was preparing himself for a life of ministry beyond what we ever imagined. For us, we spend these symbolic 40 days preparing ourselves - of seeking restoration - as we anticipate Christ's Resurrection, which marks the end of this season.
As we prepare ourselves, we have the tradition of making some sacrifices during Lent. Whether we give something up (a food, bad habit, or some material item we really don't need) or add something (spiritual practice such as devotions or prayers), please remember the reason we do so. I encourage you not to make a change because you feel you have to, only to return to your "old ways" on Sundays ("mini-Easters") or the day the season ends (Easter). I hope instead, we can make changes to our lives that will hold lasting effects, that will truly help us to grow in and strengthen our faith. That whatever choices we make in this season will have everlasting effects and carry over beyond Lent, and that most importantly, it will help us to refocus our energies and take a risk by diving into an even deeper relationship with Christ who calls us to this place - who restores us.
Far more than any year ever before, this year, I am ready for Lent. So much has happened already this year, and it is almost as if there has been no time for it all to catch up and sink in. From ongoing economic problems to discovering the root of my back problems are because I have Degenerative Disc Disease to friends in need hundreds of miles away, to the tragic and heartbreaking premature birth and death of friends' infant son only last week, I have spent this year in ceaseless prayer for crisis after crisis.
This year I have set goals for this season, as always one "sacrifice" and one spiritual practice to work on. More important than these, though, I pray whatever our goals are, we are able to collectively keep up an attitude of ceaseless prayer, even when we aren't in crisis to remind us (and I hope that day will be soon). I pray that whatever changes we make to our lives this season, they are changes that allow for us the opportunity to find rest and inner peace, and to find the restoration we so often speak of this season being affiliated with.
Come, O God, and restore our souls as we remember on this day that "From Dust we came, and to dust we shall return."