Embracing The Ashes

It is Ash Wednesday. I have never celebrated Ash Wednesday. Being raised a Church of Christ girl – I never even really knew what it was. I stayed on one side of the fence and felt comfortable not knowing what was on the other. But today I am taking the time to learn….Whether you celebrate it as a religious holiday or not, its symbolism stands strong. It is a day of repentance - A day of newness - A day of change. And - yet again - it brings me to face my thoughts. Repentance….sounds like it belongs in a pew doesn’t it? But does it? What does "repentance" really mean? Prior to the Christian meaning we have inherited - the Classical Greek word "metanoia" meant something maybe a little different. It meant this: Changing one’s mind or heart about someone or something. In short – it is a molding of the heart or the mind into something different.

Powerful – don’t you think? I have found that, with myself, if I try to change my WILL before having a change of my HEART – then my actions will almost always repeat themselves. Almost always. And, in the end, I will be left disappointed in myself all over again....and again....and again. Kinda breeds a bit of shamefulness. The WILL continues to act according to its nature until the HEART is changed.

ASH WEDNESDAY: Wikipedia is an amazing animal...

“Ash Wednesday gets its name from a practice of placing ashes on the forehead of the faithful as a sign of repentance. As the priest makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the participant he often recites: “Remember, oh man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return” Dust. Ashes. Ashes in ancient times were used as an expression of mourning and a sorrow for faults. SORROW – for faults. Godly Sorrow – often referred to as GUILT. A word we stray away from and try to avoid. It’s a shame, I think. Speaking first hand, the pain of our past choices causes us to do one of two things. We either stand or fall. Really - two choices. You see, having experienced a lot of it....God has taught me much about GUILT. In short he has taught me this:

The purpose of guilt is to change a heart and to bring us closer to the arms of God. In God's beautiful plan, he allowed us to sin - not with hopes that we would live in shame - but with longings that our hearts would be pricked, we would feel sorrow, come to him to ask forgiveness and comfort, and then to burn. BURN? Yep.Those who work in metals call it Refining. You see, the hope is that acting outside of Love would touch us deeply enough to spur a desire to be more Loving. To ask God to burn away anything that looks Loveless. But instead we run away from the essence of Love -into Darkness. Instead of drawing closer to Him to take a deeper look into finding how to be changed, we hide in the bushes. What's in the bushes? It's this great thing called Shame. Shame is basically being immersed in Guilt. It kills.

Leaving yourself in Shame can result in death to your spirit. If there's something that needs a warning label - its Shame. Its stopping in the Quicksand of Sorry and never finding the Joy on the other end. Joy? Yes sir. There is nothing better than the feeling of a 4 mile run after you have eaten four time what you should have at the dinner table - yes? Yes. Kinda like that. Guilt plus Sorrow plus Change equals finding a nestling place closer in the arms of God that you have never found before - because you have used the very thing that caused you both pain to bring you closer to His heart. Kinda like when you say something you totally regret in an argument to someone you love dearly and then you come back in True Sorrow to apologize. And then there is........The Embrace........and then there is The Smile.......and then there is The Kiss.

That, my friend - is winning. That is standing in the face of the enemy. That - is Embracing the Ashes.