Why I love Ash Wednesday and Lent part 2: Death

Why I love Ash Wednesday and Lent part 2: Death February 23, 2012

Ash Wednesday 2012 at HFASS. Photo by Amy Clifford


In the rest of our lives it seems that we are consumed by the hopeless project of ensuring our own immortality.  As though we can live forever or fend off the insult of aging with the right combination of exercise, diet, self-care and if we can afford it, elective surgery.  Face creams, hair die, yoga.  The offers of false promise are all around us.  Luring us into the delusion of endless youth as though we can buy our way out of the foundational truth of who we are.  Mortal.

But while we are denying the truth, God is delighting in it.

This is what we hear in Psalm 51:

Indeed, you delight in truth | deep within me,

and would have me know wisdom | deep within.

That’s the desert we journey through in these 40 days of Lent.  The wilderness of the truth deep within us.  A wisdom which is not of this world.  We journey with Jesus through the desert of Lent but it’s almost as though we have to clear through a whole lot of brush to even get to desert.  Lent is about hacking through self-delusion and false promises.  Lent is about looking at our lives in as bright a light as possible, the light of Christ, to illumine that which moth and rust can consume and which thieves can steal.   It is during this time of self-reflection and sacrificial giving and prayer that we make our way through the over grown and tangled mess of our lives. We trudge through the lies of our death-denying culture to seek the simple weighty truth of who we really are.

This is not a season of  taking up self-denial, it’s a season of relinquishment.  We let go of all the pretenses and destructive independence from God.  We let go of defending ourselves.  We let go of our indulgent self-loathing.   Like the prodigal son we then begin to see a loving God running with abandon to welcome us home.  But we can’t begin to see this God until we turn from our arrogance and certainty and cynicism and ambivalence.  The Psalmist says that God delights in the truth that is deep in us.  The truth. God doesn’t delight in the purity of our doctrine or the perfection of our piety.  God delights in the truth and wisdom underneath all the overgrowth of despair and false pride.  Therefore there’s no shame in the truth of who we are; the broken and blessed beloved of God.  There’s no shame in the truth that our lives on earth will all end and that we  are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.  It’s not depressing.  What’s depressing is the desperation of trying to pretend otherwise.  What’s depressing is to insist that I can free myself I just haven’t managed to pull it off yet. What is so wonderful about Ash Wednesday and Lent is that through being marked with the cross and reminded of our own mortality we are free. We are free to hear the song of our own salvation which tells of Christ who offers life and forgiveness. This song sings of a God who creates clean hearts and renews our spirits.

….to be continued



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