Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, as we march on toward Easter. I always debate whether to give up something for Lent as I have mixed feelings about it. As a kid I was raised Catholic so I always found something to give up for Lent. When I got older I turned away from church for a time because I lacked understanding of the gospel, the reason. In high school I came to faith through the outreach of Young Life, finally grasping that Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus, because of His great love and sacrifice for me, not a set of rules and rituals. So I scoffed at the traditions and liturgy I had previously known in church, and moved in more non-denominational, less liturgical bodies of faith. Interestingly enough, as I have gotten older, I have made a circle of sorts by joining the Lutheran church, a more liturgical group. I have come to understand some of the deep meaning behind the rituals and practices in a way that does not bind me in human tradition, but enhances the worship experience with a more profound expression of spiritual truths than I find in contemporary worship services.
So, back to Ash Wednesday… here I am, still undecided. Perhaps my indecision stems from fear of suffering or worse, failure. Can I really live without chocolate? Or sweets? Really? One never knows the true strength of a thing until one tries to resist it. Try to resist temptation and then you will know its power. The Lord’s Prayer does not request “make us strong to resist temptation,” but “don’t even lead us to temptation” because the flesh is weak. We cannot do the good we want to do, but rather we do the bad we do not want to do so often (as Paul writes). But thankfully, God sent Jesus, His only precious Son, to rescue us from ourselves so that through Him we can do all things.