Lent is a dark time within our Christian calendar. It is the 40 days before Easter (not counting intervening Sabbaths). It is a time to remember and acknowledge our humanness and our sinful nature, our mortality, our need for repentance, and Christ’s suffering, and to make sacrifices (a nod to our historic attempts to make ourselves right with God).
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Many faiths mark the occasion with the worship leader’s putting the sign of the cross on congregants’ foreheads using ashes mixed with oil. The ashes symbolize this mourning, repentance, and recognition of our humanness. A local church gives worshippers the option to have ashes mixed with glitter. Yes, glitter. How wonderful! What place does glitter have in the ashes?
We know how the story ends, right? We know how Lent ends, don’t we? With Easter! With Christ’s resurrection. With Jesus’s defeat of death. And what that means for us – no death. Our ability to defeat death. Our ability to be made right with God, which we cannot do on our own.
Christian churches celebrate Easter, but many don’t even give a nod to Lent. I think it is important. After all, we can’t appreciate Easter without appreciating where we would be without it.
We struggle to appreciate warmth
until we’ve been miserably cold.
We struggle to appreciate dryness until we have been uncomfortably wet.
We struggle to appreciate nourishment until we have been hungry.
We struggle to appreciate the quiet until we’ve been bombarded by relentless noise.
We struggle to appreciate health until we’ve been sick.
We struggle to appreciate love until we haven’t been.
We struggle to appreciate life if we don’t know death.
We struggle to appreciate Christ’s sacrifices if we don’t recognize what our life would be without them.
We struggle to appreciate God’s love if we don’t accept how meaningless our life would be without it.
We can’t appreciate the glitter if we don’t sport the ashes.
Glitter is much like God’s love. You can’t get rid of it. You can wash, ignore, vacuum, brush, blow, shake, or scrub and yet there is always a little glimmer that will survive. God’s love is always there for us, even when we reject it. Even in the darkest times, God’s love is there.
It is fitting that the Christian calendar has Lent. It needs ups and downs. After all, life is full of ups and downs. In fact, sometimes it feels like it has more downs than ups. But through it all, we have God’s love. Despite it all, we know that ours is an eternal life through no doing of our own. But there by the grace and love of God.