The first time I saw someone with a black smudge on their forehead…it was a shock. And then I saw another person. And another…
Easter is big in my church. Ash Wednesday? Not so much. We didn’t have a special Wednesday service nor did we have a ceremony where the pastor formed a cross upon our foreheads with ashes. But I was born into the Church of God in Christ…a denomination much different from the Catholic faith, or any other denomination observant of this day.
Tomorrow, many people of faith will take time out of their day to pass through the doors of a church, stand in line, and contemplate the significance of Ash Wednesday. They will leave with a physical reminder of their observance…or repentance.
For some, faith believers or not, repentance is not the focus. But sacrifice is. Repentance means sorrow for a previous sin. Sacrifice, however, as a verb, means to give up something. What we hear most often is someone giving up a bad habit for Lent. So for 40 days, we stop smoking, we give up chocolate, we give up cussing.
40 days is Biblically significant for a couple of reasons. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, fasting and praying. And he was tempted during that time. After the children of Israel formed and began to worship the golden calf, Moses fasted and repented for 40 days.
So for 40 days, we refrain from doing ____ as best we can. Some don’t make it past the first day. Some struggle and give up midway. And many make it all the way to Easter. And can’t WAIT to get that first puff or drag of a cigarette. Or that first candy bar.
Someone once told me that the poet’s job is to ask the questions…and not provide the answers. So I ask…why give it up for just 46 days? Let go permanently. Additionally, if you’re turning away from one thing, what are you turning toward?
If you watch a lot of shows about hoarders or re-organization, the expert usually suggests discarding with old before bringing in the new. Maybe as we commit to STOP doing _______, we should commit to START doing ____. Something that will be better for you, or me, in the long run.
I’ll end with two more (rhetorical) questions.
What are you giving up for Lent? And what will you commit to?