On Ash Wednesday, we are marked with the sign of the cross with a mixture of ashes and oil as the words “from dust you came and to dust you shall return” are spoken over us.
This “imposition of ashes” is meant to remind us of our finitude; the reality that we are on this earth for a short and limited time and don’t know when the end will come. Recognizing this limited time on earth provides us an opportunity to reflect on what is important and meaningful in our lives. The words “from dust you came and to dust you shall return,” call us to turn towards God and away from the unprofitable things of the world. The word repent conveys this reorientation towards God.
“Fasting” is a practice Christians have used over the centuries, in a physical effort to realize mortality. The effort is ultimately used as a way to repent and turn back to God. It involves giving up some physical need. Today, individual’s first fasts may have been chocolate or something relatively easy. Even with a small sacrifice, we begin to realize our physical limitations.
This year has been like no other in memory. Many among us have felt like they have been on a fast from life itself. Instead of fasting food or drink, we have fasted valued relationships; socially, at church, and with family. For many, intimacy in relationships is the essence of life itself.
I recently saw a “post” describing the seven wonders of the world as to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to feel, to laugh, and to love. For many these have been limited during the past months. It has been and continues to be hard. We have been put in a situation beyond our control and forced to remain in circumstances that are not our choosing.
This discomfort is often the point of fasting. For in the place of discomfort we recognize our need for something more, something outside ourselves. We recognize the need for something more than our efforts can obtain. In fasting we learn to rely on someone more sufficient who is greater than us, for help, for strength, and for comfort.
If we slow down and stay in the uncomfortable place without trying to escape, we can learn something about ourselves. More importantly, we can learn that God has been with us all along. God enters our uncomfortable places with us. God does this out of love for you and for me. God gives us the help, strength, and comfort we need to move forward. Then God calls us to do something extraordinary, God calls us to enter the uncomfortable places with others who are experiencing difficult times. And as God was motivated to do this for us out of love, that same love empowers us to care for our neighbors.
In this season, I pray that you might receive renewed revelations of God’s loving presence. May God empower you through Love. Then may you find a renewed strength of purpose to engage your neighbors, especially those who are struggling. Life is short, each day is a gift, and it is a gift meant to be shared.
May you know the hope of God’s calling, as the author of Ephesians states in chapter one: 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God[f] put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.