Belated Ash Wednesday Thoughts
February 26, 2009
Yesterday (according the the calender measure of time) was Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent, 46 days until Easter.
I do not know what it is about this year, but it kind of snuck up on me. Maybe it is the fact that I spend the vast majority of my non-work time alone, so I was never really around people who care about high liturgical holidays and bring them up in conversation. Maybe it is because the system for figuring out the date for Easter in a given year is unnecessarily confusing.
I’m not exactly high liturgical so it is not an arbitrary religious requirement for me, but I think it is a good practice. The whole idea of taking “40 days” to add more discipline into your Christian walk is a good one; Rick Warren jumped on that idea when he created the Cheesy Baptist Lent (a.k.a. The Purpose Driven Life program). It does not necessarily needs to be the 40ish days before Easter. In fact, one’s walk should continuously become more Christ-like if we are to be spiritually healthy.
To use a possibly cheesy analogy, the Christian life is kind of like a pond; if one does not do churn it up by adding in more Christ on a regular basis, it becomes stagnant. And drinking from a stagnant pond is a good way to get oneself sick. We need to continuously go for that living water, not settle for the stagnant remnants from the past.
As is my usual modus operandi for these sorts of posts, here is some pertinent Scripture. Paul’s analogy is better anyways. Enjoy:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Christian discipline is training. It is important to note that salvation is a free gift; it cannot be earned, no matter how one goes about performing religious acts. No amount of fasting, abstaining from chocolate, or other usual Lenten activities can save oneself or even bring oneself to be a little more deserving of salvation. Intentionally trying to become more Christ-like, however, is what sanctification is all about.
Lent (in the way I view it) is not for the unbelievers. It is for the followers of Christ. It is for those trying to walk that narrow path, trying to keep their eyes on the prize, as it were.