I worked in a law firm where two of the three partners were Catholic. They showed up to work one morning with smudges on their foreheads. Part of my job was to make sure that they didn't look too stupid going into court, so I made a comment about the smudge to one who was walking out the door. He looked back at me with an incredulous look on his face and said, "it's ashes" like I was supposed to understand what that meant. I'm sure I had a blank look on my face, and the other attorney walked by and said, "heathen protestants."
Of course, since then I have discovered the significance of Ash Wednesday. I get asked each year questions like, "what should I give up for Lent" or "why do we give up something for Lent." And I give answers like, "you should give up something that you place as a priority over God." (People hate that answer, they want to hear something like, "you should give up spinach.") I explain that we give things up to understand sacrifice and to surrender our will to God.
Yet, when I talk to my confirmation class about Lent, I tell them to think of what comes between them and God. They would rather give up cola or chocolate than to even think about what they may need to really give up to get closer to God. And typically within a day or two, they are eating chocolate and drinking cola. While we may not necessarily expect our youth to fully understand these concepts, I have found that the youth I work with are simply an example of their parents life. The adults are often no better at making God top priority than their teens.
Lent is a great time to remind us that without God we are nothing. Everything we have from our resources to our time to our family, etc., belongs to God. We never know how much time we have left, so do we give it to God, or do we try to orchestrate it ourselves? In John 10:10 Jesus tells us, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." Are we living the abundant life God wants for us, or are we accomplices in the theft of our own lives.
What are you doing for Lent? Not necessarily giving up something for Lent, but what are you doing to grow closer to God? Are you placing God as top priority? Or are you holding on to things and not giving God control? Would you rather give up superficial things, or deepen your faith?
I'm participating on Spiritual Sundays this week