When I was a girl, I attended Catholic school. I was the token Protestant girl in my class and listened while my friends chattered about their first communions and later on confirmations. I sat through weekly church history and religion classes taught by a priest where he explained the importance of each church tradition. On Ash Wednesday, we walked forward and had ashes smudged on our foreheads. During the weeks that followed, we had services each week where we went through the stations of the cross. I remember thinking it was a whole lot of sadness. I wasn’t used to going into such detail about my sin and the lengths Christ went through for my salvation.
Looking back, I think sometimes we all have a tendency to miss the ashes. We love Easter Sunday and Christmas morning. We sing happy songs in our weekly services. We prefer motivational, uplifting sermons. As people freed from our sin and living by grace, all of this seems natural. We have a lot to celebrate. Yet, I think there’s something so valuable about stopping and coming to terms with the depths of our sin that put Jesus on the cross. I don’t really think we can live out this grace fully without first looking deep into the ashes.
We need Ash Wednesday and the Lent season. We need to grieve our sin and sorrow over it to prepare our hearts for Easter. To be honest, I’d prefer to skip past this step. I know, my sin was bad, but now I’m forgiven so let’s move along. Is anyone else not a fan of coming to terms with their sin? The thing is, I don’t think we can fully appreciate how expensive our salvation is without also seeing how wretched our sin is. The cross is wasted on us if we aren’t completely wrecked over our sin.
This is so much more than a particular religion or denomination, it’s a position of the heart. We need to be people marked by humility over our own depravity rather than those with fingers pointed at the sin of others. People who are fully aware of their sin aren’t angered by the sins of everyone else. Because once we do come to grips with our sin, we see ourselves as those desperately in need of grace. When we look at others who wrong us, we see only mirrors of ourselves. Their sin might be a different variety than ours, but it’s no different in front of a Holy God.
Then, once we arrive at that place of deep repentance, then we get to Sunday.
Originally posted March 2014.