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Ash Wednesday

Several weeks ago I was invited to attend an Ash Wednesday service at a local Anglican Mission church. The service was at 7:00am. I am NOT a morning person. I thought that it would be nice to go, but knew that realistically no good intentions would be enough to get me somewhere a full two hours before I needed to be at work. Therefore, I made no promise to attend – to myself or anyone else.

Last night before I drifted off to sleep, I prayed a simple prayer.

“Lord, if You want me to go to that 7:00am Ash Wednesday service tomorrow, then You will have to wake me up at 5:30am. It’s in Your hands, Lord.”

I did not expect to wake up this morning until the alarm went off at the usual time. Much to my surprise, at 5:21am my eyes opened wide. I got up, got ready, and was out the door by 6:30. I made it to the service on time, sat with my friends, and soon understood why I was to go.

Something has been stirring in my spirit over the last several weeks. The best way I know to describe it is as a sense of disgust for the excesses in my life. I have over-indulged in rich foods, I have over-indulged in spending, and I have over-indulged in things that waste my time and take me away from spending time with the Lord. I am in debt: not only financially, but physically and spiritually. I could start spending wisely, eating wisely, and managing my time wisely today – but it would not be enough to make up for the over-indulgences of the past. I have been coming to understand that I must have a time of restraint, a time of restriction, a time of fasting, in order to get to a break-even point. Once I reach “zero”, I can start to build.

What is “zero” or breaking even for me? Financially, it’s easy to determine that, but what about physically and spiritually? I’m not sure how to measure that yet. Physically, I could set a weight goal, but there is so much more to it than that. I must include physical fitness and strength. And spiritually, it’s hard to measure where one goes from breaking even to over-flowing.

The service this morning began with an explanation of the origins of Lent: I won’t repeat it all here, but this part stood out to me. “…all Christians… take to heart the call to repentance… and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord. I invite you, therefore, to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.”

I knew as I heard the words that God is calling me to a time of self-examination and self-denial. In the past this has seemed like the last thing on earth I’d want to do. But this morning it seemed like a call to pure joy. The idea of restricting myself in order to press in to God and repent from gluttony and pride seems fresh and new. Not like a diet, a budget, or a strict daily devotional time, but an opportunity to do something to show God my love. It is a desire to find simplicity, to return to my first love – or maybe find Him for the first time.

Perhaps I’ve been so busy in my life trying to be someone special – to compensate for times I was hurt or mistreated, times I got away with things I shouldn’t have, times I broke others hearts – that I’ve never really taken time to just BE a Christian: to be a woman who loves God with all her heart and really would do anything for Him.

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