But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29 (KJV)
Parts of this blog come from Ash Wednesday 2011. I would have written a completely new one, but as I read over this much of it remains the same. I think since I wrote the original post near three years ago, I’ve come to ponder things a little more as Ash Wednesday approaches.
First though, I want to say I’m not trying to dog on religious activities, I’m only trying to get you to see beyond…
When I hear of people prepping for what they’ll do without during Lent, I start thinking about what I’ll give up and then I’ll push it aside. But last night, while I was trying to sleep and couldn’t, I kept running things I could give up through my head with more seriousness than I’ve done over the last few years, and then I’d question myself, why?
Why participate in Lent? In all honesty I really don’t know. It’s not like going without sugar, although difficult, has any comparison to what Jesus gave up for me. It’s not like I need to give up Facebook to prove I love the Lord more than anything else in the world. God knows the thoughts and intents of my heart, more so that I do.
I’ve never been one to celebrate ‘traditional’ holidays that date back to the 900s. And I’ve never been one to observe Catholic rituals. After all, much to my poor mother-in-law’s chagrin, I’m not Catholic. Of course, the Catholic Churches aren’t the only ones dusting their foreheads in ash on this good Wednesday. Many other denominations will be participating in this ritualistic act of repentance.
Truly I am no scholar and I have not a single hour of theology beneath my belt, and maybe I’m completely missing the point of this observance, maybe I’m just not getting it at all. Somehow, we’re suppose to mimic Christ’s 40 days of temptation in the desert by giving up red meat, or soda, or video games or whatever we can come up with to do without. I don’t see how there is any comparison. Jesus’ time of temptation was much greater than anything we could imagine, with much more at stake than cost we would pay if we failed. And if you tell me that we are to give up something and replace it with prayer when temptation occurs, well shouldn’t we be doing that any way?
Not that I have this perfected, not any where close, but shouldn’t I be doing this? Shouldn’t my mornings start with ‘Good morning, Lord, what is it you’d have me do today?’ and end with ‘Good night, Lord, thank you for the many blessings you’ve bestowed upon me’? Shouldn’t I turn to Him all throughout my day for the good and the bad?
In my story, The Guardian’s Promise, (yeah, I’m going there) Ari’s life was filled with rituals. Without those rituals he feels as if God has abandoned him, but he soon realizes that it’s not the rituals that brought God to him, it’s his heart and the relationship he builds with God outside of those rituals.
Rituals are nothing more than a prescribed procedure, according to dictionary.com Who prescribed this ritual? Was it the Lord, or was it a man-made ritual designed to offer us some sort of salvation if we succeed?
Whenever I come across a religious ritual, my first question is to see if it has any Biblical basis.
Job said in reply to the Lord: I know that You can do everything, That nothing you propose is impossible for You. Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge? Indeed, I spoke without understanding of things beyond me, which I did not know. Hear now, and I will speak; I will ask, and You will inform me. I had heard You in my ears, But now I see You with my eyes; Therefore, I recant and relent, Being but dust and ashes. Job 42:1-6 (JSB)
Verse 6 in the NIV says: Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.
Oh, Lord! Show us your Word, reveal it to us this very moment.
Can you not see? Job, in the face of God’s greatness, in the face of what God had revealed to him through his trials, understood he knew nothing about who God really was, knew nothing about God’s love. I imagine Job’s cry out to Adonai was that soul wrenching keening, “God, oh, God, I never want to go back to the way things were. I never want to go back to just existing day after day, rising in the morning only to lie down in the evening. I never again want to experience my life apart from You, O Lord, just going through the motions.”
Just as God worked through Jesus’ temptation in the desert, God also revealed himself to Job in a great magnificent way, a way we can never really fathom. I want to challenge you during Lent, to not just give up something, or many things, I want to challenge you to seek God’s face, honestly and truly. To ask Him to reveal Himself to you.