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3 Reasons Why Observing Ash Wednesday is a Better Idea Than Eating Peanut Butter & Watching Netflix

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It was just a typical Wednesday. My alarm clattered boisterously into my dreamland as the sunshine began creeping through my window. I hustled through my morning routine, poured a steaming cup of coffee and sat down with my Bible and journal in hand. It had been a few days since I had intentionally spent time in God’s Word and I knew I needed to steep my life in truth before taking another step. I read Galatians 6, scribbled some notes about planting and harvesting and not giving up and went on my way.

The day was filled to the brim with projects, meetings, phone calls, to do lists, second and third cups of coffee, and a few dance breaks in-between. By the time I hopped back in my convertible and pulled out of my office parking lot, my brain was fried. A very literal thought bouncing through my mind as I drove home may or may not have sounded a little like this: “I just want to lay in bed, watch Netflix and eat peanut butter. Out of the jar.” Feeling tired is probably an understatement.

But, this particular Wednesday wasn’t as typical as it felt when I originally pushed snooze on my alarm clock for the millionth time earlier that day. This Wednesday was the beginning of the Lenten Season known as Ash Wednesday. In years past, I’ve observed Ash Wednesday, headed to church for the dawning of ashes and re-aligned my thoughts for the 40-day march towards Easter.

So, in the midst of my peanut butter reverie, I knew what I needed to do. I grabbed one of my girlfriends and headed to a church in my community hosting a Night of Worship. We parked, sang some songs, prayed and then came to a moment in the service that took me straight back to where my day began.

The pastor invited us to walk towards the front, grab a seed from a bucket and plant the seed in a box of dirt next to it. He said, “In order to bring new life, we have to dig up dirt and plant something dead, a seed. New life is birthed out of ashes, out of that which is dead. We all have areas we need to plant today. We have dead, decaying areas of our own lives that we need to surrender to Jesus to bring forth new life. Tonight, let’s symbolically plant that which is dead and anticipate new life.”

It wasn’t until after I had planted my seed, walked back to my chair and sat down that what had just taken place clicked and Galatians 6 came rushing to the forefront of my brain:

“What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” {Galatians 6:7-10, The Message}

From the second my feet hit the floor, God was weaving a theme much greater than I could have imaged throughout my day—a theme that struck a chord I needed to deeply reconnect with: what we plant, we harvest.

I quickly realized that observing Ash Wednesday was a much better idea than eating peanut butter and Netflix binging. I reflected on that which is dead in my life. I rediscovered the beauty in ashes. I was reminded that Jesus brings new life.

So, how can I receive this new life? How can we take those dark, grimy, dead spaces and plant them in preparation for something beautiful, something whole, and something new?

  1. Plant in response to God & let Him do the work in me. Jesus just asks me to put my dead seed in the ground. He’s got me from there.
  2. Don’t give up. Too often, I’m ready to quit in the midst of the growing season. Galatians beautifully reminds us to not get fatigued in doing good, to not give up, to refuse to quit.
  3. At. The. Right. Time. At the exact right time, that dead seed I planted is going to sprout into something more beautiful than I can ever imagine. It might not be today, it might not be in the next week or month or year, but it will come at the right time.

These steps seem pretty elementary. They seem far too easy for something new to be birthed from. But the application of them? That’s the tricky part. That’s the crazy-time-to-leap-and-trust part. The foundation of these truths are anchored in Galatians 6—they’re rooted in a deep, abiding trust in Jesus. They’re based on the opening of my hands and releasing control to the only One who can create beauty from ashes, the One who makes beautiful things.

No matter where you find yourself today, it’s time to bury that which is dead. It’s time to plant in response to God. And it’s time to step back with open hands and allow Him to do His work in you. It’s time to celebrate our God who makes all things new.

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