Tonight, our church held its Ash Wednesday service to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. Our Pastor offered a time for the imposition of ashes on our forehead or hand. This is only the third time I have actually participated in the service. This is not a tradition you find in many Baptist churches. Some of my friends find it a little odd, some don’t quite understand the significance, others like myself, are stil working on embracing the symbolism. Growing up in a traditional Southern Baptist Church, I did not become acquainted with worship practices like Advent, Lent, Maundy Thursday and Ash Wednesday until I became a student of church music in college. I quickly came to love many of these facets of the liturgical year, mainly because they provided markers in the story of Jesus. They gave me a place to celebrate, to pause, to be contemplative and to draw me closer to my fellow worshippers and to my Lord.
Over the last few years, I have begun to embrace even more the Lenten season. I have been asked on occasion isn’t that a “Catholic” thing, and while the observance of Lent has its roots in the Catholic tradition, I think there is much that those of us who identify as Protestant can benefit from during this 40 day period. Many folks see Lent as a time to “give up something.” This comes from the idea that Lent is a period of reflection and repentance. Often times, repentance comes through prayer and fasting, so the idea of fasting from a pleasure during Lent will hopefully lead us to a place of greater understanding.
As I began to think about this, I came to the realization that more than anything, I want to give up destructive thinking. Not just destructive thinking about myself, which leads to poor self-esteem, but destructive thinking about others. I want my thoughts to be positive thoughts, edifying thoughts, ideas that build up and don’t tear down. I believe if I can give up destructive thinking, others can see Jesus more plainly in my life.
Can I encourage you to find something in the next 40 days that leads you to a positive place in your life? Can I encourage you to find your way closer to God in the next 40 days?