I worked on the evening of our Ash Wednesday service. While some left their sanctuaries bearing a cross, I went home to sort the decision out alone. The bowls of ash have long been emptied. What of those who missed the ceremony? I grappled with the meaning of charred dust and the season of Lent. What should I do to honor this season? Was I too late to observe it at all?
Lenten rituals marking foreheads with charcoal crosses have launched our seasons of observing Christ’s sacrifice for centuries. Millennia before these rites began, ancient cultures threw ashes on their heads to demonstrate mourning or repentance. Ashes have long represented purification, burial, putting the old things of life behind us.
Many discuss their fasts to observe Lent. Some give up a treat or luxury for the season. Others give more to charity or spend more time in service. Prayerfully chosen commitments can help us shift our perspective to focus more on God. A fast or obligation with superficial motives offers no benefit. The Lord can guide us along unique paths to a deeper relationship with our Savior, so it’s best to consult Him when determining the way. The journey of discipleship doesn’t carry the same start date or the same lessons for each individual.
He transcends time and ritual. His heart is to draw us into deeper connection with Him, and this purpose defines both Lent and its destination–Easter. If you missed Ash Wednesday, pray about the perfect start and means for your discipleship journey. God is always on time.
Ashes remain a mere symbol, and Lent a seasonal reminder. Repentance transcends ritual or seasons. Any time is a good time to honor Christ’s sacrifice–with or without a grey mark on your head.