On Ash Wednesday – today – if you receive the imposition of ashes, when the pastor smears the oil and ash compound on your forehead, she says “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.” Not the most uplifting sentiment, but nonetheless the truth.
When I think about Lent (the 40 or so days between and including Ash Wednesday and Easter) and what it signifies, the seasonal context strikes me as most essential. From West Germanic langitinaz, which means “long-days,” or “lengthening of the day,” the dark of winter gives way to the light of spring.
It is incomplete, however, to say that at the culmination of Lent in Easter life simply overcomes death. That way of thinking does not acknowledge the necessary power of death. Without a dying off new life cannot spring forth. This is why Lent is a time of repentance, reflection, and restraint. Lent is a season where we have the chance to reflect on the things in our lives that we need to let die.
The Lenten season is not only an individual journey, it is also corporate. What do we as a family, church, community, nation, or world need to let go so that new ideas and solutions to our most intractable problems can emerge?
What is calling you this Lenten season? What is in your way that needs to give way so that you can live most fully into your calling? I will be reflecting on this over the next 40+ days and would love to hear your thoughts about what Lent means to you. As dark gives way to light, let us give way to those things in our lives and in our community so that the world we hope to see for our children is possible before we return to dust.