Today is Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent. Today many Christians all around the world will kneel in churches and be marked with an ashy cross on their foreheads. Depending on their tradition, they will either hear the words: ‘Repent and believe the Gospel’ or ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’
For me, Lent is an opportunity to connect: to who I truly am, to Jesus and his suffering, to the story of God’s people, and to God’s family. However, I am always tempted to lose focus: sometimes what I give up is more about self-improvement than it is about connecting to Jesus and his story. Ash Wednesday reminds me that this is not about self-improvement at all: ‘remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’ This truth confronts all the false stories I present to the world. It reminds me of who I truly am. Which is sobering. It’s also freeing.
Ash Wednesday reminds me that my identity is not primarily found in the fact that I’m an ISTJ, Enneagram 3, Blue, Type A Beaver (or whatever personality test you like best). It’s not primarily found in my accomplishments, reputation, or abilities. Ash Wednesday reminds me I am a sinner saved by grace, that I am loved so much that Jesus would die for me, and that I am part of a community – a family – of people who have the same identity. Ash Wednesday reminds me of the gritty, ashy, earthy nature of my identity and my faith. It calls me to remember who I truly am – dust – and then to ‘repent and believe the Gospel.’
How will you make space to connect with who you truly are and the Gospel during Lent?