As of yesterday, we entered into the season of Lent, the 40 days that lead up to Easter Sunday. There have been some years where I've been really conscientious about observing Lent, and others where it has slipped by me. Since I'm now at an Anglican church, I think that it would be near impossible for this to slip by me, and I see that as a good thing. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and was also the first day I prayed this prayer out of the prayer book:
Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I have now prayed this prayer a few times, and I find it moving, beautiful and piercing. I think Lent can be scary- we are called to remember that we are "but dust, and to dust we shall return." We're also called to take an inventory of our lives, to be penitent, contrite, repentent. We're called to remember our frailty as humans...hmm. Not always an upper. Understanding what it means to have a "contrite heart" is sometimes confusing, and it can easily be mistaken with self-loathing. However, I'm reminded through the words of this prayer that "God hates nothing He has made." We are called to be penitent and repentent not because God wants us to be sad, but in order to be closer to God and to become more like Him. We are called to let go of our sins so that we can more easily understand the fullness of God's love. When we hold on to sins, vices, and idols, we are blinded and kept from understanding the full, majestic, all-encompassing nature of God's love for us. As a parent keeps a child from making bad decisions and ushering the child into healthy behaviors, how much more does God do that for us? As we embrace lenten practices, may we understand how giving the things of this world up draw us closer to the Father's heart.