At the invitation of a friend, I woke early this morning — before the sun came up — and drove to our little church for the 6:30 a.m. Ash Wednesday service.
It was a gift to be inside that place — one of my favorite places to be in all of Winter Park — at such an early hour and with just a handful of other journeying pilgrims, praying together.
I’m so glad I went.
I shared with my Cup of Sunday Quiet readers this past week, as well as in a guest post for the MSFL blog at Spring Arbor, that this season of Lent could not be coming at a more perfect time. I’ve just emerged from a difficult season in my life with God, and here on the other side of it, I find myself starting anew with practices and commitments that were a long-held, integrated part of my life and routine before things changed.
I feel so much like a beginner.
I feel so much like a penitent.
Accordingly, it was so meaningful to pray the liturgy for Ash Wednesday this morning.
We prayed Psalm 103, and my eyes teared up upon saying aloud, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” There were many times in this past season of fallowness where I did forget the Lord’s benefits and where I stopped asking my soul to bless the Lord.
I gave thanks when we prayed:
“For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him …
For he himself knows whereof we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.”
— Psalm 103:12, 14
I was reminded of my frailty — and that my frailty does not surprise God. I was reminded of his mercy toward those who fear him, and I was (and am) thankful he has given me a heart that fears him.
Later, after we had received the imposition of ashes, I was thankful to be reminded that “the sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart [he] will not despise” (Psalm 51:18). I received in that moment what God offers today on Ash Wednesday: absolution. I accepted that I can stop berating myself for the things I regret having done or said or thought or felt in these last months. I accepted God’s forgiveness, knowing that my heart, indeed, is troubled, is broken, is contrite over all these things.
And now begins the time of my returning.
May these next 40 days be a disciplined return that grows anew within me a heart that praises God and seeks to build up and to serve. May it be for you the invitation God has set before you, too. Amen.