I'm wrapping up our office renovation. New paint on the wall. New light fixtures (efficiency!). I decided I would rip of the carpet in my office. I had a suspicion - based on the squeaking when I pace the floor (yes, I pace the floor when I talk on the phone. Getting those steps in!). I was confident I would find hardwood floors. If so, I would sand them down and place polyurethane on them and enjoy the new look.
Up goes the carpet and then the point comes. You know that point - the point of no return; the moment of truth. What's underneath? When the tack is peeled away and the corner is tugged and it begins to curl toward the middle with every pull. It's at that point when there is no looking away. The truth that was burried is now staring you in the face. To my relief - a wood floor with spots brought on by traffic and water spills stared back at me. Nothing too bad, but it would be many more hours before the work would be done.
Some people are very apprehensive about Lent, especially the beginning of Lent, which is Ash Wednesday. The purpose of Lent (and the pattern of Christian life) is to ask the Lord to help us face what's underneath. We pray that God would give us eyes to see and ears to hear and then the grace and growth to mature, change, and persevere.
This is the moment of truth: God knew, God knows, and God loves.
Christians, people of faith, don't repress: we confess. We rip ourselves open and pray that the daylight of grace would cover us and turn our mess into something beautiful.
That's one thing I adore about the liturgy (our worship service): we don't pretend; we don't grovel; we say, "Lord, it looks like I screwed up this past week and this week is starting off shakey!" And immediately after the confession and private prayer we have the Assurance of God's Pardon spoken to us. I L-O-V-E it. Face it. Name it. Receive the grace to move forward.
During this project I spent a lot of times on my knees: sanding the edges, scrapping hard to reach areas, and putting the coating on with a brush instead of a roller. I also used that time to pray, to go through the roster of our church family and to pray for them. I also took stock of my own life and saw some things need some attention. We all have our own stains and grain. We all have our "high traffic areas," where we are worn down or worn thin by the hardness of life. Can we bear to allow the gospel of Christ Jesus to stare at us one more time?
Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are not primarily about you. It is a call to allow yourself to be seen and known. That is, known by God and for you to be known by yourself. In doing so you come to the moment of truth: God knew, God knows, and God stays. God does not recoil in horror, but keeps close to you with the assurance of grace, redemption, and help.
What comfort have Christians drawn from this type of confession? Well, within the first generation after the resurrection of Jesus we have these words: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The proof of God's amazing love is this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Because we have faith in him, we dare to approach God in confidence" (Romans 5; Hebrews 4).
Receive the ashes. Receive the assurance. Go in grace.