Ash Wednesday, one week later – a guest post by Susan Grunder

shutterstock253202413Ash Wednesday was one week ago. How is it going? Did you start out Lent with the best of intentions?

Last Sunday we heard about God’s covenant with us. In the Psalm, we cry out to the Lord to teach us his paths. To remember us. In the Gospel, we see Jesus driven by the Spirit into the desert. Jesus doesn’t lead the Spirit into the desert. The Spirit drives him. Where is the Spirit driving us this Lent?

800px-The_Game_of_LentSometimes we look at Lent as a chance to reboot our New Year’s Resolutions. We just change the names to fit the traditional “Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.” We might call it fasting, but, let’s be honest, we are really hoping to lose some weight while we are at it. We might set aside time for prayer so we can check that box or mark it off of our daily Lenten to-do-list, but are we really engaged in our prayer? Are we opening ourselves up for the activity of the Holy Spirit? For Inspiration in the true sense of word? Are we pausing for a moment to allow God’s Spirit to be breathed into us? To fill us with the spirit? Do we view Lent as a chance to get a jump on Spring Cleaning? I love the popular Lenten “40 bags for 40 days” but maybe we need to ask, do we give our excess? Or do we give of our selves?

We are on a Lenten journey. Have we really thought about our destination? Are we immersed in the journey itself? Who is doing the driving? Many of us cling to the idea that we are in control. We are in charge. Lent offers us the chance to remind ourselves that we are following Jesus. Here is our chance to open up and be driven by the Spirit into the desert.

When I received ashes on Ash Wednesday, I was struck by how gritty the ashes were. They look so insubstantial and fluffy in their glass bowls. As the minister drew the cross on my forehead, though, the rough feeling of the ashes reminded me a little bit of sandpaper. That gritty feeling has stayed with me all week. I keep thinking that maybe this year during Lent, parts of me are being scraped away. I’m like a sculpture in the hands of a craftsman. I’m being prepared, polished, refinished.

(Susan Grunder is the Director of Religious Education at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, VA.)


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