This week’s post is an introduction to Ash Wednesday and an overview of the Lenten Season Series. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection. This is the first post of the series.

It is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten Season! Yay? 

Yesterday was one of my favorite holidays: Mardi Gras. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana. My New Orleans family celebrate Mardi Gras from January 6th to the day before Ash Wednesday. The season of Mardi Gras is filled with family time, parades, sweet pastries like King Cake, dancing, beads, and golden coconuts!

Growing up, the change from Mardi Gras to Ash Wednesday was stark. Ash Wednesday was marked with silence, grim faces, sacrifice, and distancing ourselves from anything that brought joy and celebration. ‘Everything has seasons, and this isn’t the season for celebrating’ seemed to be the reason for Lent. The popular question on mainstream Christians’ lips appeared to be “what are you giving up for Lent?” 

As I learned more about the Lenten Season…how wrong this idea of “everyone must sacrifice something” is! The Lenten Season is a time of quiet wonderment. Lent is like the first taste of the lightest, fluffiest cake that we savor and remember when we think of cake. Lent is like being in a museum and stumbling across a work of art that touches your heart differently than anything else has. Lent is like hiking, and along the way something inside you must stop and take in how big/small/beautiful/connected it all is. Lent is like that one time when you pushed your body to its physical limit and somehow it stayed with you, protected you, protected someone else, journeyed with you, and recovered…that feeling of deep appreciation and respect that you didn’t have before.

Yes, we may have to work at developing a discipline of amazement. Yes, we may have to let some things go in order to find how to wonder and be in awe. Yes, we may have entered a different season. However, the season is one where spring begins. Our spiritual lives can reflect that of creation, where the hard but rewarding work of growing can be seen above ground.

Are you ready?

I know sometimes I’m not.

Most times, I don’t know where to begin. My fear guides me back to the ’comfortable because everyone else is doing it’, grim faced, sacrificial Lenten practices. Today, Ash Wednesday, is the day when we place oil and ashes on our foreheads and solemnly say, “From dust you came, to dust you will return.” We remind each other of our inevitable deaths and our short lives, almost like we believe ‘we are nothing and have always been nothing.’

Where is the wonderment in that?!

One clergy friend put glitter in their ashes and oil and said, “From star dust you came, to star dust you will return.” That stirred my sense of amazement. I found myself thinking, “from dust you somehow came, to dust you somehow will return.” I had rediscovered a sense of mystery that was vibrantly colored in gratitude and imagination.

Let’s try wonderment this year! Will you join me?

Over the next six weeks, we will be reading scriptures where we can consider wonderment and reflect. To help us figure out how to stir our sense of awe, my friends in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area (Presbyterian Church USA) have allowed me to riff off on some of the concepts they study during Lent.

The principles our Twin Cities’ friends explore are rest for Creation and for humans; trust in God’s provision; practicing joy; justice and compassion; and redistribution and equity. We will delve into each of these principles through our lens of wonderment, awe, and amazement.

Now that we’ve explored Ash Wednesday and where our Lenten journey will go, let’s spend some time reflecting:

I wonder what Lent means to you.

I wonder about the last time you felt awe or amazement; what’s that story?

I wonder where you rediscover a sense of wonder in the words, “from dust you came, to dust you will return.”

Find all posts in the Lenten Season Series on our Ministry Resources page.