With the thought of fasting or giving up a beloved indulgence, many may feel a little uneasy about welcoming this season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and extends until Easter. Instead of hesitancy, I would like to invite you to approach the season with receptive minds and hearts, to welcome the work that God might do within your spirit. As our creator, there is no other one who deeply and with compassion, understands the individual inner workings of every person. If we trust that the Lord wants what is our best, fullest, most beautiful way in life, it should be more than a welcome we extend, but even an embrace.

Embracing the Spirit, who will help us sift through our thoughts, feelings, and those hidden recesses deep inside where we hide hurts away, can be a pathway to healing. Giving God permission to love us enough to help us forgive ourselves, and fill us up so we can forgive others, is a journey towards freedom. Embracing God, who sacrificed for us, can grow our gratitude, endurance, and calling—affecting how we move through life, serve the world, and live in relationship with Christ.

Seeking God through daily scripture reading, setting aside a distracting habit, taking time to journal or draw, walking in nature regularly, practicing acts of service—these are just a few avenues to pursue communion with God. Settling our insides long enough to sense peace and connection to our Source, offers an opportunity to live with greater intention and depth, and be better grounded, equipped to give, and centered in God.

Receive ashes. Recognize that you are gifted with life, able to live in an amazing body, with all the beauty and limitations that come with this. Acknowledge imperfection and sinfulness, and open wide to the truth that God already knows and receives all of us just as we are. Bow in thanksgiving and offer generous gifts of sacrifice in these weeks ahead. With a measure of humility, seek from our Savior that which you need, even if you are not sure what that is. The knowledge of God reaches beyond ours, and God works in ways of which we may not even be aware.

Consider Jesus—his life surrendered to God in faithfulness and his love given out in every way—words, touches, presence, his body broken. Reflect on the gifts that God has extended for hope to overcome our doubts, love to overcome our hatred, and life to overcome the death we all face. As God’s immense gift of love dawns on you in new ways, offer a welcome. Offer an embrace.

Written by Anna Perry Miller
Originally published in the March 2020 Explorer