Today is March 1, 2017, what some signify as Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent. I thought about doing a devotional on why we should fast and pray but then I thought about something. How can I truthfully tell you to fast, pray, adorn ashes on your head and give up things for Lent when most of us (if I can be honest) don’t even know what it is or stands for. I’m sure you’ve heard about it, seen the posts on social media or the images with people who have ashes on their forehead. Ashes on the forehead? Why? And give up what, for how many days? Baby, this is the last thing a lot of us are thinking about when most of us are in mourning, in pain, in debt, in sickness, in dead-end jobs, in loveless marriages, in somebody else house or in confusing situations. Yea, I can tell you that you should be preparing to fast but some of us find ourselves fasting by force due to no money and/or no means. Please understand, I am not criticizing Ash Wednesday or Lent season. In fact, I plan on participating, fully, but when will we get back to teaching the real meaning of things before we place them into people’s hands? See, if we just tell people to fast, they will but will it be beneficial? We can tell people to show up on Wednesday at the church and rub ashes on their foreheads but will they know the real reason why? Will they know the purpose of their ashes?
Ashes in biblical references meant sorrow, shame, mourning or repentance. For Job it was repentance for he says in Job 42:6, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” For Daniel, it was mourning after learning Jerusalem must be desolate for seventy years. For the bible says in Daniel 9:3, “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.” The people of Jonah responded with fasting, repentance, sackcloth and ashes after hearing the warning of their destruction. Tamar put ashes on her head after being violated by her own brother. Why am I sharing this? To ask you this question … What’s the purpose of your ashes? If you don’t know, find out before you allow them to be wiped across your forehead. Don’t seek them out because you want to be a part of what everybody else is doing but do it because you understand what your ashes stand for. Do it because it represents what you stand for.