Ash Wednesday

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
   slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
   nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
   he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
   is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
   as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
   tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
   he remembers we are only dust. (Psalm 103:8–14 NLT)

In Joel 2:13, God instructs Israel, “Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” For many believers, Ash Wednesday is the day that begins a season of fasting and repentance, a period in the Christian calendar designed to help us best prepare for the joyous celebration of Easter – Resurrection Sunday. For some, Ash Wednesday serves as a reminder of Genesis 3:19, “For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” But rather than allowing us to stew in this nihilistic thought, again and again God reminds us of the truths found in Psalm 103: He is compassionate and merciful, and because of Jesus he will not count our sins against us.

God also calls us to move beyond our failings, misdeeds, and empty words to become the kinds of people he designed us to be, people who promote shalom in our communities, share of the advancing of the Kingdom come in our world, and worship God through every word, deed, and thought.

Yet this ideal is often far from our reality. Even so, God is constantly inviting us into an ever deeper restorative relationship with him. Sometimes this restoration looks more like relaxing with a good book on a cool spring afternoon, but restoration is not always easy or free of pain or difficulties. Sometimes restoration looks like an arm that has popped out of socket and needs reset; the process can hurt much more than the current state, but it’s only once the arm has been restored to its proper place that it will truly be useful once more.

In this Lenten season – a season perfectly designed to help us restore a right relationship with God, with ourselves, with each other, and with God’s creation – are there things you need to address that have too long been ignored? Are there habits or thought processes you’ve picked up that need set aside? In what areas of your life are you finding that you need a bit of holy restoration, and how can you use this season to allow God to tenderly and compassionately care for you and set you right once more?