Last night I had one of the most fun Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras celebrations I have ever had. We had a great crowd, there was a spirit of joy and celebration, the Kensington School hosted an awesome kids’ corner with fun activities, and best of all was the Hickory Neck Talent Show. I have not laughed so hard and smiled so much in a long time. I even woke up this morning with an uplifted spirit, the smile still lingering on my face.
While I am so grateful for that blessing, as a priest, it does make entering into Ash Wednesday a bit tricky. Here I am still coming down from the high of last night, and now I need to enter into a worship service where I tell people to fast, to repent, and to remember their mortality. It almost feels like emotional or spiritual whip-lash, and I have been struggling this morning to know how to help others with that same abrupt shift.
Where I have landed is that I think the best way to enter into Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is with that same lingering sense of celebration. You see, when you have experienced the highs of life, talking about the “lows” of life seems a bit more bearable. Yes, we are mortal, and yes, we will return to the dust. But while we are still mortal, we can make this life here on earth one of great joy and love – one of laughter, of community, of togetherness.
I wonder if this might be a way to enter Lent in a healthier way. Instead of lamenting our sinful nature (and believe me, we do need to lament our sins), perhaps our Ashes today might remind of us the earthy nature of being humans and encourage us to strive for the ways we might live that earthy life in a more holy way. I plan to do that today by entering into a season of kindness. I am taking the joy from my community of faith last night and channeling it into forty days of kindness – where my repentance becomes a practice of demonstrating my identity – of living more faithfully the virtue of kindness. What Lenten discipline are you taking up? What might be a way for you to joyfully grasp onto this fleeting life and make it a witness to Christ’s light and love? I can’t wait to hear all about it!!