Happy Ash Wednesday!
Or is that what you say when Lent begins? I'm not sure... as I've never really observed Lent. Last year was my first "go" at it, and all I did was participate in this Lenten devotional. This year, I'm not fasting, but I am giving up secular music. I had kind of stopped listening to secular radio for a while, but fell off the wagon over Christmas (I love me all types of Christmas tunes!). Plus... the Christian radio stations in Dallas DRIVE ME INSANE!
But at the same time, I feel like my focus is being drawn away from Christ when I'm listening to Rhianna sing about sex and stuff like that. I used to wake up singing hymns, or I'd burst out into a worship song as I washed dishes. Now I'm singing, "What's my Name?" Not liking that at all.
Not that I think anything is wrong with secular music. And it's not like I plan to never listen to any of it again. But at least for the next 40 days that's the plan because I want to be drawn back to Christ in a new way, and I felt giving up secular radio will help me in that process.
So... what is the deal with Ash Wednesday anyway? It's taken my 25 years, but I think I finally understand. It's not about self-denial. No chocolate, no soda, no Facebook, or for me, no secular radio. It's about the denial of self. Now you're probably wondering, how are those two different? But they are...
My pastor, Gabe Gilliam, does a much better job at explaining this, but I'll take a shot at it. Basically self-denial is simply denying yourself of something you generally do/consume. Denial of self is about about change, saying 'no' to yourself in order to glorify God more. One is simply an act, the other is a change of the heart.
I never observed Lent in the past because as far as I could see, everyone I knew who observed it was simply practicing self-denial. I didn't get how giving up something as minuscule as chocolate or soda altered the trajectory of their spiritual walk. And if I'm going to participate in some religious observance, whatever it may be, it needs to be for the glory of God and not for my own glory. It needs to move me closer to Him, and not just an act I participate in as a habit.
I began to get that last year. And I hope I continue to practice denial of self over self-denial each Lent. Starting with this year.