“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3
My hand clenched tightly to the small piece of scratch paper as I stood in line at Ash Wednesday service.
Why am I so excited?
As the line began to move me closer to the altar, my eyes began to shift back and forth.
The altar (which never seemed like such a long walk before tonight)
The cross (which never looked as big as it did at this moment)
My paper (which was starting to feel really heavy in my hand)
I finally reached the altar and was greeted by one of our pastors.
In his hand, a jar of ashes. In my hand, my Lenten sacrifice.
I knelt down and placed my sacrifice in the basket.
The thing that I have loved more than God. The thing that has blocked me from experiencing Him fully. The thing I need to let go of, before I can fully grab a hold of God’s promise in my life.
I was placing it at the altar….
I knew it had to go, but that tiny piece of paper carried more than most would ever know.
Because that thing was ME.
It was ME that needed to die.
Why was I so excited?
Because I was ready...
Ready to die, so that I could finally live…..
As I stood up, the pastor sealed my intent with a cross of ashes on my forehead.
My ashes. His altar. Me altered.
I paused for a moment to behold the cross once more.
My cross, a symbol of my death. His cross a promise of my new and resurrected life.
A life that begins where I end.
A life made empty, to experience His fullness.
A life where I get to exchange my cross, for his crown.
My defeats, for His victory.
My ashes, for His beauty.
How could I not lay all of me on that altar? Why have I held on those pieces at all?
Tonight, I gave it all to Him.
Every messy, dusty piece of my life.
I know that He will turn it into something beautiful.
This season we get to pause and reflect on the life that we have available to us because of Christ’s sacrifice. As we begin this sacred time, I pray that each of you find a way to observe it with the reverence and humility it deserves.
Let us pray: Dear God, our loving Father, as we prepare for Easter and begin this Lent season, grant us a deeper insight into the meaning of the Cross of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. May we see the glory of Thy Son shining from the Cross; the glory of a love that is faithful to the end. A love that has endured despite our own sins. You have created us in Your image, but we have strayed so far from the path, and every day we fall short. We need Your presence in our lives and we need Your help in confessing, repenting, and living the way You would have us to live. Let this Lent be a time of reflection, repentance, and renewal that we may learn from Your sacrifices and be guided by your example. As we deny ourselves during these 40 days, remind us that our sacrifice is but a pale imitation of what you sacrificed for us. In the name of Your Precious Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Now listening to: You Make Beautiful Things