Walking our Faith: Ash Wednesday and the forty-day journey toward Easter
February 25, 2017
My 55th birthday is in March. Which means I've been planning the festivities since January. Do you know what else I'm planning for in March? Lent. I love Lent. While some will spend Wednesday, March 1, nursing the aftereffects of Mardi Gras, I will head to Mass at 8 a.m. for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of my 40-day journey toward Easter.
Like my March birthday, I've been thinking about Lent for weeks. I can't wait to get started and to share the Lenten journey with you. You might ask why I'm talking about Lent today when it doesn't begin until Wednesday? Well, like my birthday, important events should be planned for in advance. I don't want you to reach the beginning of Lent and be caught by surprise. I don't want you to make some lame pronouncement like, "Well, I guess I'll give up chocolate again this year," without thinking about the true meaning and value of Lent.
Lent is not a diet plan. Lent was not thought up by the Seafood Council of America. Lent is not a conspiracy to force you to go to church more than once a week for no reason, so that you end up resenting church so much by Easter, that you don't darken the door again until Christmas Eve. When I was in my 30s I had a best friend, such a kindred spirit that we were like sisters. We had a standing Saturday evening itinerary that consisted of a sushi dinner, then coffee at the bookstore and finally shoe shopping. Every week.
Our conversations were always the same and we knew exactly what to say to make the other one laugh. It was lovely. But, as these things happen, over the years we moved to different parts of the country and lost touch. Oh, we'd reconnect from time to time, but it was never quite the same. I believe our relationship with Jesus can feel a lot like this. In our hearts, we know we love Jesus, but things get in the way.
We rush to get out the door in the morning. Then spend the day running from one appointment to another. By the time we get home, we're so tired we're lucky if we eat dinner in front of the television and then stumble back to bed to begin the entire cycle six hours later. And as with that friend we promise to call, but never do, our relationship with God becomes a fond memory.
I like to believe that God provided Lent to give us a chance to reconnect with our real best friend, God himself. Which is why I want us to think about the next 40 days in a new way. Instead of giving up something for Lent, join me in leaning in for Lent. Let's spend the next 40 days pursuing our most important relationship, the one we have with God through his son, Jesus Christ. Let's approach it in the same way we would if we were rekindling a relationship with a long-lost friend.
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Where to start? Instead of picking up the phone, speak out loud with God. Share what's on your heart. Don't worry about saying the wrong thing, God welcomes your honesty.
If you want a model to follow, try the outline of the Lord's prayer:
1. Give thanks to God for everything in your life and for your heavenly father.
2. Ask for your needs, your daily bread.
3. Ask God to forgive your shortcomings, just as you forgive others in your life.
4. Pray that God will keep you safe as you go through the world.
5. Finish by thanking God again and acknowledging that his is the power, the glory and honor, forever. Amen!
If you believe that spending five minutes with God each morning can't make a difference, try it for the next 40 days and see what happens. Imagine how happy you would feel if you received a phone call every morning from someone you loved, for no reason, except they wanted to say hello and wish you a good day. That's a glimpse of how wonderful your brief prayer feels to God.
Let's start right here. Let's journey with Jesus for the next 40 days. Let's see ourselves walking toward God, toward a closer relationship that will change our lives forever. Let's start now. During the coming weeks of Lent, I will share my Lenten journey to a closer relationship with God. I hope you will share yours, too. Write to me, tell me how it's going. As for my big 55th birthday celebration? I'm heading home to Florida, borrowing a friend's beach condo and spending a week with Mom. Sounds perfect.
Suzanne Anderson is the author of "Love in a Time of War" and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths