My favorite day on the church calendar is coming up this week. I am a freak who loves Ash Wednesday.
For many years---long before I became an Episcopalian---I observed Lent. Most of my sorority sisters in college were Roman Catholic, and they introduced me to the practice. I immediately fell in love with the idea of it.
There was something about the idea of a penitential season that resonated for me. Maybe it just fit in all too well with my fundagelical background, but I got it. I practiced fasting and abstinence from things I really liked for about 10 years before I ever joined a faith community that "did" Lent.
Before that happened, the Ash Wednesday service was the only one I ever attended. For probably five years, I would sneak into Christ Church in downtown Nashville for the noon service, walk out with ashes on my forehead, and stay away until the following year.
It sort of shocks me now to think that I never allowed Easter to come...
I look forward to Wednesday. I will fast the whole day, because it is something I feel called to do. I will attend the service where my dear friend will preach and make the mark of the cross on my forehead. I will enter into this beloved season once again, hoping to deepen my relationship with God---and knowing that all my hopes for it will be disappointed, as they are every year.
But I believe there is something holy about even my failures. I want to know God---want to find that soul-deep connection with the Creator of this vast, incredibly beautiful universe. Want to be better and do better, despite everything in my life that would tell me the desire is a vain one.
I keep trying. I hope that counts for something.
I haven't settled on my Lenten discipline this year. I've learned that giving up things is easier than taking them on---which tells me that I should do the latter, if I really want to get something out of Lent. But we shall see...
I wish for you a holy Lent---one where you find God in all your brokenness and weakness. One where you learn that God loves you, even at your worst---and that God calls you to be your best.
And at the end of it, there will be Easter for all of us---including me. There was a time when I did not allow Easter to come---then a time when I saw no hope for resurrection in my life. Those days are past, thanks be to God.
I know now that there is life after Lent---and that there was, is, and always will be love during it.