O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
3 You search out my path and my lying down
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
The unexamined life is not worth living. —Socrates
Marking the beginning of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday is a time for close self-examination, both of the heart and of the way one is living in light of the gospel. It is a day upon which we can reflect and be reminded that we are dust—ash—in desperate need of resurrection. Hence we begin a season where we get to identify with the suffering Christ by stripping away the exterior facade to reveal the blackness of the ash that is our heart.
It is quite easy to go through the motions of life and continue to put on layers, layers that cover what is really going on, protective skin that shelters us from pain and suffering. We pretend that life is grand, even as the ashes continue to pile up inside of us. In our effort to suppress the our growing unrest we flee that to which Christ has called us: a life of suffering.
This season of Lent, we can work to remove some of the layers of falsehood by intentionally taking time to fast. The Father sent His Son, Jesus, to the desert—intentionally—so that He would begin to get a glimpse of the things He would endure, including temptation. And while the temptations came throughout His years of being on mission, He was always prepared to combat them with words from His Father because He never allowed the layers to build up. He knew the reason for which He came in the flesh.
Lent gives us time to do the same, to withdraw from certain things in order to be alone with God. It is a time for us to begin to examine ourselves and see what darkness lies within. We get the freedom to live obediently, thus enduring the trials that James (in his letter) reminds us will come. Even as Lent provides us a season to prepare our hearts for the coming resurrection of Jesus, it does so with the idea that we would endure pain so that we are reminded that we are ashes in need of the same resurrection.
Let us spend this season of examination as one with the Father, identifying with the Son, and being led by the Holy Spirit. Choose to peel back the lies that are protecting our frailty and see how good the gospel of Jesus Christ is. Repent and believe the gospel.