Thursday, February 18, 2010

Forty Days

Today marks Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar.

Lent is not something that is necessarily observed in evangelical circles, and I have come to sit with the idea only in recent years.

There's a lot of talk of what people "give up" for Lent; for me, it is becoming more and more a time of remembering:

Remembering that of dust I was formed. There's nothing glamourous about dust -- for the most part, we spend considerable time trying to eradicate it from our lives!

Remembering that Jesus died for me. Even though I am dust, He formed me from that dust. And He loved me, enough to sacrifice His own life for mine. Sometimes it is easy to forget, or to gloss over, the tremendous sacrifice that Jesus made, leaving His home in heaven and taking on the form of dust -- all to bring us to Himself, to God.

Remembering to focus on Christ more than myself. These forty days are a gift as we build up to the holiday that is even more important than Christmas -- Good Friday and Easter. I wonder what Jesus, who of course knew when He was to be crucified, thought about in the forty days prior to His death? Certainly His preaching and teaching had a new sense of urgency about it. And yet His love for others never diminished though the shadow of His impending death had started to loom large.

Remembering to focus on other people more than myself. During these forty days in particular, I want to be more sensitive to the needs of people around me: the college kid with no sense of groundedness ... the high school kid with no sense of direction ... the senior citizen whose spouse has recently passed away ... the friend grappling with health issues, with issues of mortality, with issues of trust and with issues of loss ... the person hit by the economic struggle who in turn is now struggling to find employment ... the ill and the recovering ... the shut in and the shut out ... my own wonderful family.

Remembering what God had to give up for me. God the Father had to give up His Son. God the Son had to give up His life. God the Spirit has had to give up so much in order to live within believers. In response, I try to find something I can give up for a mere 40 days as a tiny token of thankfulness, as a daily reminder.

Remembering the great gift I take for granted. People in less privileged and religiously oppressed countries treasure a page of scripture. And I personally own a number of Bibles! Yet I don't appreciate what I have -- not just the Bibles but the freedom of religion that we enjoy in Canada. For the 40 days of Lent, I want to be more disciplined in studying the Bible for a few minutes each day.

Remembering that to dust I shall return. Ash Wednesday reminds me that life is fleeting and fragile and so I should treasure it deeply but hold it lightly.

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