Are you confused about the whole Lent, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Easter thing? This post is not about teaching theology to you. So, please stay with me.
I always believed Ash Wednesday was another religious ceremony created by the Catholic Church. My mother’s family is Sicilian and Catholic, but we never put ashes on our forehead. As I grew older, I discovered part of our family did celebrate Ash Wednesday and Lent by partying in the streets of New Orleans each year. We only went to Mass on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day when I was a kid.
Fast forward a couple of decades…
I read the bulletin handed out at church, announcing a special Ash Wednesday service. This is a non-denominational church, and they are adopting Catholic rituals? I suppose it will not hurt to see what this is all about.
As an avid learner, my tendency is to head straight to the front row of the classroom. Here I was, front and center, expecting answers to these questions bouncing around my brain. One by one, we received our communion elements as the worship team sang Lead Me to the Cross.
This song had played on repeat all over the radio in recent days.
Everything I once held dear.”
My heart stirred, recalling all I had counted as loss including my marriage, family, self-respect, treasured friends, my career, integrity, and my daughter’s heart. Now living as a recluse, clinging to the remnant of the Cherie I knew not so long ago.
Dabbing the tears from my eyes, I watched each person respond to the invitation to approach the wooden cross stationed on each side of the room. My body resisted the call. They would write down the one thing they chose to surrender to God on a small piece of paper and tack it to the cross. The pastor smudged the ash on their forehead in the shape of the cross, intended to symbolize that the person belongs to Jesus Christ.
In the Bible, Job despised himself and repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:6).
That was it. I despised myself. Rid me of myself, God. Forgive me.
“I belong to you.”
How could I belong to you, Lord, after the things I have done?
“Lead me to the cross.”
Immediately in that moment, I knew Jesus was inviting me into a deeper understanding of not only who He is, but who I was and whose I was.
Have you ever felt like the bright light shined directly on you, even though it wasn’t? This encounter at the wooden cross, receiving the ash mark on my head, sealed it for me. His pursuit of me meant something. Though I welcomed Jesus into my heart over a dozen years earlier, my recommitment to my relationship with Him was more tangible now. Humbled to nothingness manifested the materiality of God in such a way that His promises came alive with more power in every area of my life.
I belonged. I belonged to Him alone.
God did not hold anything against me. Just the opposite. He celebrated the return of my wandering heart, just like the thief on the cross in Luke 23:33–43.
The devil would not win.
When the Lord led me to this church, I noticed their statement on the building, A place to begin. A place to belong. In my lack of understanding at the time, I interpreted that to mean I found a church home to belong to. Now I know it was where I would discover true belonging in my soul for all eternity.
Just like Job (Job 42:10-12), God restored all I had lost. My new life is far more blessed than my former life.
I share my journey in my upcoming book, Biker Blood: An Outcast’s Quest for Justice and Belonging.
Friend, if you question your worth in God’s eyes…
If you doubt Jesus could love you…
If you want to truly belong…
Open your heart for a miracle. Quiet your soul. How is He pursuing you?
How can I pray for you?