Ash Wednesday and the Start of Lent

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us: we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

– C.S. Lewis in his letter to Father Peter Bide on April 29, 1959

It’s just past 3am as I sit ever so upright on our cool leather couch, checking my posture, begging these muscle spasms to calm down. Our cozy turquoise throw blanket comforts my skin, a soft plush to wrap around a body screaming with inflammation and pain. I feel like I’m Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day,” as each morning I wake up with so much hope and dare I say, renewed joy, that perhaps I’ve slept through the night…perhaps this pain is all just a bad dream and I get to start a whole new day pain-free? Instead, the clocks rewind and I’m still injured and struggling. I haven’t slept through the night, far from it. In what feels feels like chronic pain as I walk through the motions of what is becoming my ‘new normal’…Waiting – like Murray, to break free of this cycle of repeatedness. Praying for freedom and healing and to reach the day when I finally stop etching lines on the wall numbering my days in this prison cell. 46 nights now? With scattered sleep, a few hours at best, then excruciating pain. I’ve lost count. Maybe counting isn’t helpful anyway. But it’s a solid reminder to me that these nights of struggle are numbered. In faith, I can believe that they will start to taper off, that my body will heal, in time.

Yesterday marked the start of Lent. Ash Wednesday. A day set apart to prepare for Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Here is an excerpt that helps explain this holiday:

“Ash Wednesday is a holy day of prayer and fasting in many Western Christian denominations. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and marks the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. Ash Wednesday is observed by Catholics, Lutherans, Moravians, Anglicans, Methodists, Nazarenes, as well as by some churches in the Reformed tradition…Ash Wednesday is traditionally observed with fasting and abstinence from meat in a number of Christian denominations. As it is the first day of Lent, many Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and making a Lenten sacrifice that they will not partake of until the arrival of Eastertide.” – Wikipedia

I’m hopeful as I enter this season of Lent, that God sees me. He knows what I’m walking through. I’m still praying over these 40 days how I might seek the Lord more reverently in this time. What does Christ want me to sacrifice? What does He want me to practice? How can I focus my heart on Jesus in this more difficult season? Questions I’m asking, prayers I’m praying.

In college, I remember how my best friend and roommate Elyse and I fasted “vanity” for Lent one year. We covered our dorm room mirrors in printouts of Bible verses that we taped by hand. We didn’t wear makeup. We didn’t look in the mirror. I think we did brush our hair though?! Hehe. The focus was on setting aside our desire to look beautiful on the outside to allow the inside to be molded by Christ, to seek His beauty and infilling of the Holy Spirit. I’m pretty amazed looking back at how we were able to actually to do that, with so much outside pressure to look a certain way. Being 19 years old, yearning to be noticed. God gave us supernatural strength, I believe it. And how beautiful that time was, where each of us sought the Lord in a more focused, prayerful way.

I wonder what God was doing in me, then? I wonder what God is doing in me, now? Preparing my heart for what He’d like to fill it with I hope, as I empty it of my expectations, my timeline on when I would like to be healed…

Ken and I have had a few really encouraging conversations with friends this week. Two families from our church who separately brought us dinner the past two nights in a row. They prayed over me and us, blessing us with their love and the tangible gift of food. It was so sweet to share meals together. They gave me space to cry and grieve the loss I feel right now. They didn’t judge me for being angry and confused, scared and uncertain. We, together, explored deep questions like “What do we do with pain?” “Does God cause pain?” “If I believe that God is All-Powerful and that all things pass through his hands, then how can I respond faithfully in this pain that He’s allowing?”

I think God knew that’s just what I needed. Friends to walk with, alongside me, in this journey. Friends to help carry this burden.

Also yesterday a friend stopped by and walked with me up and down my street, my first longer walk in a while. We talked about Lent and she encouraged me so much in just listening to my heart. Then, she sat with me while I chopped vegetables, opened canned salmon, and created my favorite mustard vinaigrette for a simple salad. That simple act of showing up as I did mundane daily tasks was so life-giving. Like the other day when my friend who was visiting Maui took me out to grab hamburgers. We sat together at Mcdonald’s and laughed so hard and shed some tears and talked about both lofty spiritual questions and basic motherhood. It was perfect.

If you’re one of my friends reading this, thank you. Thank you for showing up for me this week. I so appreciate all the prayers, the texts, the emails, the food…you are such a blessing to us!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4‬:‭16‬-‭18‬

10 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday and the Start of Lent”

  1. Hang in there. I went to mass yesterday at 630 am for my ashes. I wore them on my forehead all day. I remember as a little lol e girl we would give up outr favorite food for lent. But I think this lent I am going to focus on positive energy and helping more people by being kind. I try to stop and give a compliment to someone I encounter thru the day. The other day my 21 year old granddaughter and I were at lunch. I commented to her how beautiful our waitress complexion was. Elena then commented to her how we felt about her complexion. You should have seen her smile.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maile, Have you ‘met’ Kate Bowler? I think she is someone you would enjoy! Sending her link. Start with her TED talk. She is a few years older than you, a professor at Duke university and a believer. She has gone through deep waters and is very real about life. I have read some of her books and regularly listen to her podcasts. Her latest one is with Beth Moore and is a stunner!

    Praying with you across the miles! So sorry for this difficult time you’re experiencing.

    ❤️ Judy

    Sent from my iPhone

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Judy, thank you so much!! I’m going to check out her TED talk and podcast!! Is she the author of “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved”? It came to me at a season in life a few years back when I needed to meet Jesus in a way I didn’t in more conservative circles. It was so refreshing and honest. Love you so much Judy!


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