Psalm 61, 62 Genesis 42:1–17 1 Corinthians 5:1–8 Mark 3:19a–35
On the first day of college, I met a woman who must have been my long-lost twin. We had the same name, were from the same state, were both of French Canadian heritage, and even had the same pant size (a quality of enormous value to any college female). But while we could share our pants, we couldn’t share our faith: she was a die-hard atheist, and I was a committed Christian.
One evening, I returned to our dorms from Ash Wednesday services with a huge black smudge of ashes on my forehead. She shook her head and said, “What’s the logic behind this horrible holiday? Your God makes you avoid joy for 40 days, and you’re wearing a mark of a saddened beast to advertise it?” I didn’t have a speech prepared on why I went to service; all I knew was that my mother would be very mad if I hadn’t. Never one to let lack of knowledge stop me, however, I said that Lent allowed us to better experience joy. Without poverty, could we truly appreciate wealth? Without hunger, could we feel grateful when our cupboards are stuffed?
It was one of the few times where she conceded the point, and, while it may not be perfect theology, my off-the-cuff explanation has served me well when Lent feels like a pointless deprivation. Rather than focusing on what I am missing this time of year, I think of it as a period that gives me the chance to really experience life the rest of the year.
(This year several Episcopal churches across the country, including Trinity Wallstreet, offered “Ashes to Go.” Click to watch a video about the experience.)