Today is Ash Wednesday which is meaningful to a ton of Christian people; newly powerful to a group of Christian people; and basically dismissed by a number of Christian people.  It’s the start of “Lent” which is the 40 days leading up to Easter.  The symbolic act of today is the placing of “ashes on the forehead” of the Christian devotee.

The act reminds the recipient of one of two messages (or both)–that he or she is mortal. “From the dust thou wast created and to the dust thou shalt return”.   And that he or she has strayed from the Gospel of God and needs to repent and return to the life God intends for them.

As stated above, many Christians have this practice in their tradition (Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, and a few others).  So, today is an important day for them (though in truth, a ton from this tradition remember the idea but don’t take part in the action any longer).  Some Christians are new to this practice and embrace it whole heartedly.  Last week my wife and I had dinner with a couple that had been part of a Baptist tradition for 40 years.  Recently, they embraced an Anglican communion (because it is orderly, and disciplined—as oppposed to the Baptist habits of spontaneity and creativity!).  So, this day is hugely symbolic and meaningful to them in their new found faith.  And then there are multitude of Christians who have nothing to do with this action lest it become a legalist attempt to gain God’s favour.    All three groups have an element of truth in them.

Me?  I am closer to the third party than any other.  I didn’t get the ashes on the forehead.  But I took to heart the symbolism.  I am reminded of my mortality.  I will not live forever.  I know for a fact that I am not middle aged, I passed that point at least a decade ago.  If you use a baseball analogy I think I may be closer to third base and who knows, I might even have rounded third base.  Only God knows.  I will not live forever.

And I need to be reminded that at times my life has strayed from God’s ideal for me.  If truth be told, I can be glib in my faith…I can be materialistic…I can be insensitive to others (materially, emotionally and spiritually)…I can be self centred…I can be far less than what God has called me to be.  If the Gospel is the story of the God of the universe giving us His son, and inviting us to give our lives back to Him in response…I need to be reminded of my part lest I go astray.

I need to be reminded of that daily, not just today

On a final note, it is customary for recipients to give up something “for Lent”.  It is often thought that this is self denial, or self punishment.  But it’s not.    The point of giving up a part of life is supposed to remind us of the deeper purposes of this Lenten season–that we are mortal, and that we need to repent.  So, don’t focus on your “need for caffeine” (if you gave up coffee).  Focus on…

Me? I gave up something as a reminder.  But I can’t tell you what it is.  In my Christian tradition, it goes against all that I stand for if I trumpet my own horn to point to my self-sacrifice.  But I did.