I've never really understood what Ash Wednesday is all about until recent years as I’ve learned more and more about the Catholic faith and the deep meaning behind symbols through my sister and other great teachers.
Ash Wednesday in many denominations is a day of fasting, prayer, introspection, repentance, and drawing nearer to God and then giving special gifts or alms to others in need. It is in essence an examination of our hearts and a turning back to or a returning to God. It’s not to be just a religious observance, but a true encounter with the Living God. It is the beginning of the season of Lent and a time to prepare for Christ’s resurrection celebrated each year on Easter.
Ash Wednesday is a time to examine our hearts deeper and see what might be holding us back or hindering our walk with Christ. It’s a time to deeply examine our hearts and let go of old habits, judgments, offenses, sin, or anything holding us back from God and all He has for us. It is a time to draw nearer to God. Repentance is a turning away from self and a turning back to God to let Him cleanse and restore and bring His love, life, and power in greater measure.
And as we are renewed in that love of God, He in turn gives us His love for others. He desires that we care for widows and orphans, or to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and much more. He wants to bring healing, restoration, and blessings to people all across our nation and our hurting world in so much need. He wants to pour out His love, compassion, and generosity through His children to a desperate world. But first, we must return to Him, our First Love, walk in His ways, and then that love will pour forth with all kinds of miracles and acts. This is true revival.
The ashes symbolize that we were made by God from the dust of the earth and one day we will all die and return to dust. Ashes were also used in times of grief, sorrow, loss, or repentance. In the Old Testament times the Jews had to offer sacrifices like bulls and goats or the ashes of a heifer to cleanse the Israelites from their sin. It was the only way to make a reconciliation between God and man. Until the perfect Lamb, Jesus came and died for us. His ashes or death brought us life. Ashes are also symbolic of dying to the old self with all its sinful practices and repenting or turning to live for God. One day we will all return to dust (die) and have to give an account of how we lived our lives. Did we simply live them selfishly for ourselves? Or did we live with His life in us and a life of love for God and others?
What about you? What things in your life are not working? What strongholds or places in your heart and life need renewal and freedom? Turn to the Living God. He longs to bring you true joy, true life, and true freedom. He knows you cannot do it on your own, but rather it is simply a turning or a return to the life He longs to give you. Jesus paid the price and paved the way. It starts with a relationship with Him. Let go of the old things and let them die in the ashes of repentance. Then prepare for all the ways God wants to bless and resurrect your life. Let God bring you a new life with joy and purpose and a baptism of love to then share the Good News with others.
I know life has not worked well for you on your terms. That is why I am calling you to return to Me, return to My heart. Return to My love and My ways. I do not withhold good things, rather I am trying to bless your life. But it begins with that restoration of your heart and life with Me. Let all the things that are holding you back die in the ashes of repentance and let Me resurrect your life in all the beautiful things I have in store for you. Return to Me, beloved one, and I will revive you.
“For dust you are and to dust, you will return.” (Genesis 3:19 b)
“So, I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3)
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? To share your bread with the hungry...to house the poor...to clothe the naked...” (Isaiah 58:6-7)