Today (March 5) is the first day of Lent. My Catholic sisters will probably attend an Ash Wednesday service today and have their foreheads marked with ash in the shape of the cross. "For dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). This is what God spoke to Adam and Eve after they had eaten of the forbidden fruit and fallen into sin. The ashes remind us of our sinfulness and mortality, and, thus, our need to repent. The cross foreshadows the end of Lent--Easter Sunday--that through Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection there is forgiveness for all sins, all guilt and all punishment.
Some people also vow to “abstain” from something until Easter (often food-related). For me, as a mother of young children, I'm not comfortable asking them to give something up—or maybe it would be nice if they gave up whining, eating their buggers and walking in on me when I am on the toilet....but I digress. My main reason for this is because my Catholic friends have said that their childhood memories of Lent were negative because they had to give up something like candy, without really understanding why. With my children, I want to foster a love and anticipation of Easter--not a sense of dread.
Still, there is something to be said for leading by example. For me, however, Lent is not a time just to "give something up." But rather a season for purification. This is something I hope to model to my sprouts, remembering that the things that are important to me, will also become important to them.
“Lent is traditionally associated with penitence, fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. It is a time for 'giving things up' balanced by 'giving to' those in need....It is time to let go of excuses for failings and shortcomings; a time to stop hanging on to whatever shreds of goodness we perceive in ourselves; a time to ask God to show us what we really look like.” -Bread and Wine, Readings for Easter and Lent
In anticipation of Lent, the last two weeks I've been purging and reorganizing each room of the house. As I cleaned, I prayed that God would reveal to me the things in my soul that need to be repented, forgiven and transformed--the yucky things that no one may see, but are definitely not of God. Attitudes. Grudges. Pride. Indulgence.
In preparation for his ministry, Jesus went away for 40 days in the desert. As mother, we too may need 40 days to become more effective in the ministry God has given us. Namely, our families and children. There may be some things impeding our effectiveness and impact as mothers. This Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, ask the Lord to reveal to you things of which you may need to purify yourself.