Testimony for Ash Wednesday

Why do I give up something for Lent? How can a family celebrate Lent? This is the written version of a testimony I gave at the Ash Wednesday service for FOL Covenant church.

I observe Lent to let the Holy Spirit work on my heart, specifically to work on what I want. In Psalm 112 it says

” [the righteous person] is not afraid of bad news;   
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…”

Psalm 112:7-8

It seems to me that stability of heart comes from wanting God more than I want anything else, anything that could be taken away. In Lent I give something up as a way to empty myself of possible rivals, in the hope that he will fill me with desire for him. I acknowledge that what I hope for matters, even on the small scale of what I am waiting for in my day. If I am “getting through” my day, just waiting for some promised pleasure…time to rest, time alone, a cookie and a cup of tea…then that pleasure is the focal point of my heart in that day. There’s a hymn that says “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” But some days, to be honest, my hope is actually set as low as a bowl of ice cream. So for Lent, I’m giving up sugar. When I can’t use sugar for comfort or hope, I know that will leave me feeling empty, and I trust that God will fill me with himself. I do it not because I think pleasure is wrong, but because I’m hoping for much stronger and deeper pleasure.
In our family, we have several traditions we use to observe Lent.

  • We decorate with purple fabric and a thorn cross; we have a little clay spiral with 40 holes and we move a candle forward one spot each day; we put out these art prints of scenes from Holy Week. But the one that fits best with what I’ve been telling you today is actually a song. 
  • The girls and I sing this Carol (like a Christmas Carol, but in this case a Lent carol) in the mornings as we start school. It’s called “A White Lent,” and I think especially the third verse connects to this idea that the point of Lent is not the loss, but the learning to enjoy God and his beauty. I’ll try to sing it for you to end.

To bow the head
In sackcloth and in ashes,
Or rend the soul,
Such grief is not Lent’s goal;
But to be led
To where God’s glory flashes,
His beauty to come nigh,
To fly, to fly,
To fly where truth and light do lie.

Percy Dearmer, “A White Lent,” verse 3
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