By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Carol Highsmith, U.S. Army Human Resources CommandMarch 2, 2018
Recently, many Christians observed Ash Wednesday by taking time from their busy schedules to attend worship services and to receive ashes in the sign of the cross on their forehead. The purpose of the Ash Wednesday service is to remind the participants of their mortality.
These solemn words, "From dust you came, to dust you will return," are spoken as the ashes are received. At the conclusion of this service, the Season of Lent begins.
The Season of Lent is a designated time on the liturgical calendar to come to terms with the broken human condition caused by sin. The season begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Easter Sunday -- Resurrection Day.
Traditionally, the observing Christian will abstain from something that has been identified as expensive or unnecessary. For example, many observing Christians will either cut back or totally abstain from alcohol, cigarettes or desserts.
In more recent years, observing Christians have chosen to spiritually prepare for Easter Sunday by adding something in their daily routine that would offer a blessing to someone in need. Instead of abstaining from something, the individual may collect money for the homeless, visit a widow living in a nursing home or in the military community -- or treat a single Soldier to a home cooked meal.
As a chaplain, I'm sometimes asked how I observe the Season of Lent. The assumption is that I actively observe Lent by either abstaining from something -- let's say chocolate -- or by saying to yes to the opportunity to bless someone with kindness.
However, I must confess that am not as spiritual as some would expect. It isn't as though I don't want to say no to chocolate or yes to random kindness. That simply is not true. Although I truly want to actively observe the Season of Lent, I find myself falling short. Quite simply, I find myself not doing the very thing that I know to do, and I do the very thing that I don't want to do.
The Apostle Paul found himself in the same quandary.
In Paul's letter to the Romans he wrote these words: "For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish" (Romans 7:19, New American Standard).
Although having a little chocolate or not blessing others may not be a huge deal, it does reflect my self-centeredness. And that is the problem. I believe this is what the Apostle Paul is addressing in his letter to the Romans.
The Bible says that we are all sinful and need the grace of God to receive forgiveness. Without the grace of God, we are spiritually lost.
In my Christian perspective, the sole reason Jesus shed his blood and sacrificed his life on the cross is so that I don't need to rely on my righteousness to be "good enough." Frankly, I never will be "good enough."
Saved by grace am I!
During this Season of Lent, there will be days that I will chose to spiritually prepare for Easter. Perhaps I will do so by saying no to the chocolate that is shouting out my name. Or perhaps I will do so by saying yes to the opportunity of blessing an individual who needs some encouragement.
However, when I fall short and don't do the very thing I want to do, then I will remember the Apostle Paul and take refuge in the cross of salvation. Don't despair if you fail on your good intentions during the Season of Lent.
Remember, your salvation is by God's grace through Jesus Christ!