My Lenten discipline is not denial, but examination. Denial hasn’t worked before. I might choose something to give up, but it wouldn’t be something crucial. And then, like a New Year’s Resolution, it would dissolve in a couple of weeks. Through pure human defect, I’m just not good at works righteousness.
So this year I choose an intentional routine of something necessary - a daily examination of the day, of self, and of God’s subtle magnificence. A discipline of filing the important stuff, sorting the demanding, and tossing the rest. And I begin with ashes.
I have always been disappointed with the turn-out for Ash Wednesday services, no matter how well attended. Disappointed, but not surprised. Who wants to come to church simply to be told, “You’re going to die”?
And yet, we come and pray, kneel and confess. To old and young alike, each age evoking its own ominous sensation in my chest, I say the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Perhaps we come to be told the truth, our truth - a truth so veneered and disguised that now-a-days we experience death only as a fiendish thief, rather than as a stubborn, necessary, companion in the pilgrimage.
Live. Whatever life tosses on the table before you, take it and live it well. Else the greedy companion will take it for his own. Examine the day, keep what needs to be kept, and let him have the rest.