The hangovers of Fat Tuesday are still fresh in the minds of many people. On the last day of Mardi Gras the goal is gluttony – over eat, over drink, over spend, everything in excess. For the day after Fat Tuesday is Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent or the forty day countdown (not including Sundays) to Easter. On Ash Wednesday we take some time to come to terms with our frailties, our sins and our broken relationship with God. It is a day of fasting and praying which is the polar opposite of Fat Tuesday. The name comes from the practice of putting ashes on the forehead as a sign of sin and mortality.
On Ash Wednesday you prepare yourself to welcome the risen Christ with a life renewed by the breath of his spirit. You assume a discipline of self-examination, confession and repentance. You dedicate yourself to meditate upon the scriptures and talk with God in prayer. You seek to be a more faithful follower of Jesus whose life is shaped by the one whom you confess to be Lord and Savior of the world. In other words, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of some pretty serious house cleaning!
Right now, as I am writing these words, the mess of Mardi Gras is being cleaned up in New Orleans. Countless people are sweeping, scrubbing, mopping, sanitizing and putting everything back to the way that it was before. Preparing the city for what is to come in the days, weeks, months and years to follow. Ash Wednesday is the exact same thing, just on a personal, spiritual, get-right-with-God level. People, all over the world, are sweeping out their lives today, scrubbing away their shame, sanitizing their lives from sin and allowing God to put everything back to the way that it was before. Ash Wednesday prepares you for what is to come in the days, weeks, months and years to follow.
As I come into this Ash Wednesday with a new heart I am even more passionate about the new beginning that is ours every single day through faith in Jesus. I was cleaning my house last week and in the midst of mopping I complained, to nobody in particular, about having to clean. Like a wave crashing on the beach, I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace and the words “I had a heart transplant” ran through my mind and came flying out of my mouth. All of a sudden the drudgery of cleaning my house seemed to fade away. I smiled and proclaimed, again to nobody in particular, “I get to clean my house!”
You are on a journey to Easter and your house needs to be cleaned. It isn’t fun, but when it is done there is nothing better than a clean house. Don’t simply celebrate the party with brightly colored dresses, chocolate bunnies and Easter Egg hunts. Allow God to meet you right where you are today and give you the peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that will have you proclaiming, “I get to clean my house!”