Lent begins today.
I don’t understand it. I never really have. I know what it is – the forty days before Easter, when people are supposed to give something up. It’s the biggest, loudest question on campus now: What are you doing, what are you giving up for Lent?
I’m not giving anything up.
Partially because there is nothing I do or use often enough to make giving it up be worth anything. The things I do use regularly are sort of necessary for college life – my computer, my email account, things like that. I can’t really give up a food, like so many people seem to do, since I pretty much survive solely on salad already. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot I could give up. Going on youtube, using the internet for non-school-related things, my guitar. But if I only spend approximately two collective hours a week on youtube and half of that is for homework assignments, giving that up won’t change much. If I only use the internet while I am doing homework anyway (or to post here) it won’t effect much if I stopped. If I use my guitar predominantly for worshiping the Lord anyway, how is giving that up a good thing?
Another reason I’m not giving anything up for Lent is because in so many ways it seems incredibly superficial. It’s another chance to boast. “I’m giving up coffee.” “Oh yea? Well I’m giving up coffee AND sugar.” “Are you now? I’M giving up facebook.” I don’t fully understand what it is, but I know what Lent is not. It’s not a competition. It’s not supposed to be a chance for us to show off, to prove ourselves to be the better Christian by the weight of the things we are giving up. (also, if facebook is the most life-effecting thing you can think of to give up, that’s just pretty darn sad and you should be doing something about that anyway, Lent or no).
So I’m not giving anything up.
It’s Ash Wednesday today, naturally. After chapel this morning, as we exited the building, the ministry staff were standing at the doors to put ashes on our foreheads as we left. I opted out of it. I sidestepped the line and squeezed out un-ashed. I don’t fully understand why people do that, and to me, that not-understanding means I should figure it out before I partake. I don’t think peer pressure should be the sole reason we participate in any sort of religious tradition or ceremony. I heard what the campus ministry staff were saying to the students, though, as they crossed their foreheads with ash. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Do I need ashes on my forehead to remember that I am dust?
Do I need to give something up to remember how much I need God?
Speaking only very personally, the answer is no. I have lived every day this semester, and last semester as well, in full knowledge of how much I need God, and how greatly I fail in seeking Him. I have lived every day in the knowledge that I am dust. I don’t need tangible signs, right now, to remember those things. Sometimes they’re all I think about.
I need something, instead, to remember that I am dust, but that doesn’t make me worthless. I need something to remember that I need God and I fail at seeking Him, but He is seeking after me as well.
There have been times, and will continue to be times, where I’ll need the ashes and the sacrifice to remember what I am and Who I should be striving towards. But right now, I just need to know that I’m held. That I am, indeed, more than just dust through the grace of Jesus Christ. That God gave up the most precious thing, His Son, to draw me to Himself.
We aren’t the only ones doing this faith thing. This ashes thing. This Lent thing. It goes two directions. That is what I need to be reminded of right now.