Lenten Reflections - I didn’t grow up in the kind of church where Ash Wednesday, or even Lent, was celebrated. The liturgical calendar is followed by many Nazarene churches, but not all of them, and to many Protestant churches in the American South, it’s unfamiliar and even foreign.

The first time I received ashes was only about 10 years ago, in a small Episcopal church I didn’t attend. An awareness of my own mortality washed over me as the minister’s thumb spread the oiled ashes on my forehead and he said, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Good News. God longs for you to be whole.” It was a powerful moment that would change my life forever, as I felt God’s call into ministry.

In the Christian faith, Lent is a time of reflection, of preparing our hearts for Holy Week and the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Christ. It only officially lasts 40 days, but if I’m honest, the entire past year has felt like a Lenten season, and that’s probably true for many of us. This past year has been a very long period of reflection and restriction, of sacrifice. We have endured a year largely devoid of the joy of celebrations, and we’ve missed out on many life events that, prior to this pandemic, we may have even taken for granted.

It’s worth remembering, however, that even though Lent is a sombre time, it looks toward Easter’s glorious triumph over death and the grave. Spring is coming, with the promise of being together again as we continue to keep each other safe by washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing, as we take the vaccination when it’s offered. A time of celebration is coming.

As we prepare for Lent, let’s remember the losses experienced over the last year, the finitude of our own lives, and the brokenness of ourselves and our world, but let’s also hold fast to the promise that God longs for us to be whole and transformed by His love. God is pursuing each one of us with His relentless love, seeking out those who might respond to His invitation by opening the door of their hearts to Him. Draw near to Him during this time of Lent, and may this season be marked by the reality of God’s presence and love in your life.