Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the season of Lent – a 40 day journey to the cross. The start of this journey is important. It sets the tone for the trip. It is the first day into a meaningful experience of growth – if we so choose to travel the journey. Ash Wednesday reminds us of who we are – in our humanity. We are reminded that we are not perfect. We are given a visual clue of our brief time on this earth. We were created from dust and to dust we will return.
This may not sound like the start of something exciting and may not appeal to you as a journey you want to travel. But I find the most meaningful journeys are those which challenge me and remind me of the goodness of God. That is what Lent is for me – a reminder of the love of God and how much I need him. I can’t do this alone. I am not in control. Lent is a way to redirect our vision toward God and away from self – a giving up of the things which hold us back from following Christ with our all.
For as long as I can remember, I have always begun Ash Wednesday with Psalm 51. The Psalmist helps us to feel the pain and agony of mistakes and guilt – and yet a deep desire to be cleansed and made new. If we truly read, it gives us pause to consider where we might be going the wrong direction and how we may need a clear course. We are reminded of how we may be missing it but this isn’t the end – actually this is the beginning. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a time of repentance and renewal.
Today, we can come to God as verse 17 so beautifully describes: with a broken spirit and a broken heart. We can come to him with exactly who we are and allow him to mend us, cleanse us, and set us back on the right path. May we lay our brokenness before him today.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
6 You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19 then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Photos included in Devotions are captured by David Cain – The Cain Gallery. Photos are available for sale by contacting The Cain Gallery