(Editor's note: I'm currently working on a couple things that are not ready for publication so I'm going to share with you a blog entry I wrote for Ash Wednesday last year. Also, I stole the title from this Something Corporate song that is awesome.)
Today is Ash Wednesday. I'm not sure that Baptists really recognize Ash Wednesday. I was baptized Catholic and once you get the holy water on you, you never really get it to completely come off. Even if you later become a Baptist. The point of the tradition is to mark a day of repentance before we transition into the season of Lent for the Christian calendar.
Christians celebrate Lent in different ways, but many of my friends and family choose to use these 46 days before Easter to either give up something or dedicate themselves anew to something. Think of it like a New Year's resolution but made to Jesus. Might be more fun, definitely more guilt involved. Anyway, so this year I decided to give up sweets for 2 reasons: a) I knew it would be hard for me to do with my massive sweet tooth and b) it doesn't hurt to live a healthier, more disciplined lifestyle. I am about 16 hours in at this point and I am gripping. I find myself equivocating on the commitment. Chocolate is obviously out but what about Pop Tarts? How sweet is peanut butter really? Can I put sugar in my coffee? Would Jesus be mad if I got all hyped up on Mountain Dew right now?
It occurs to me that I might be missing the point.
It reminds me of the story of the Transfiguration. Matthew tells the story this way is his gospel.
"Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!' When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified." Matthew 17:1-6
This is what it takes to get their attention finally. Really? All the healing and miracles and feeding of five thousands and raising people from the dead just didn't do the trick? God has to bring in the cameo appearances from Moses and Elijah and put the super glow effect on Jesus' face and clothes just to get them to listen!
I'm that guy that has to go through every other option, to bargain, to cajole, and to doubt before I finally just stop and pay attention. It takes all that for me to realize that God really just wants to bring me close and teach me what it means to truly follow Him and become like Him. Yeah, it's supposed to be hard to give up something you love, even if just for a time. It drives you to prayer and reliance on Christ.
As we go through the Believe project together and as we progress through the season of Lent towards Easter, I hope we can let God show us again just how amazing and transformational is His mission to the world. I hope that when He asks us to make small sacrifices we realize that what we sacrifice today will be paid back tenfold in days to come. But most of all, I hope that when we doubt and when we wander and when we fall that we'll take the time to pray and to see Jesus for who He is once again.