Ash Wednesday

Last night before bedtime, I held a family meeting to talk to the boys about some concerns that I have — namely, bad attitudes and tempers. I started by reading the passage from Luke 4 about Jesus being tested (tempted, provoked, antagonized, had his buttons pushed, egged him on … things that I tell them they do to each other frequently). We talked about how Jesus turned Satan’s arguments around with Scripture and how he made the decision not to make the choices that Satan wanted him to.

We talked about verse 13, which says that Satan eventually gave up and went away until a more convenient time. I reminded them that just because they make a good choice one time doesn’t mean that they’ll never face that issue again. Each and every time is a new choice. I reminded them that anger by itself is not a sin. There are plenty of times when it is justifiable to feel angry. What’s not ok is to take out your anger on others.

I confessed that I don’t always make the best choices, either, and they’ve seen me lose my temper more times than I’d like to admit. I told them that I’m sorry and asked them to forgive me for times when I’ve not set a good example with my own anger. I explained that I want us to commit as a family that we will pray together daily (and individually) about anger.

When I described Ash Wednesday, I said that some Christian traditions (mainly Catholics) recognize Ash Wednesday as a day to mourn – or feel sorry for – our sins. It’s a time to get straight with God about our choices and focus on making better choices as we prepare our hearts to celebrate Easter in a few weeks.

Before the meeting, I had one of the boys cut out several Bible verses about anger that I had printed, and we put them in a bowl. I told the boys that each day, we will draw a verse and read it aloud. I told them that if they felt like giving up something for Lent as a way to give a sacrifice to God, then they certainly could, but the thing I want us to focus on together is getting rid of anger. Everyone agreed, so one of them read the day’s verse and prayed before I sent everyone to bed.

An ash cross (albeit smudged) to remind me that I came from dust and will return to dust.

An ash cross (albeit smudged) to remind me that I came from dust and will return to dust.

I’ve never attended an Ash Wednesday service before today, but the university where I work offered a program during the lunch hour at the seminary chapel, and I thought it would be a nice time to reflect and experience something new. The service was a nice reminder about the things we discussed last night.

The chaplain reminded us that the symbolism of the day isn’t just to focus on our sin and feel remorseful about it, but to recognize our sin, own up to it, and walk away from it. Therein lies the struggle, and it’s a daily battle.

Lord willing, these baby steps that we’re taking together through our daily readings and prayer will help to instill some Scripture in their minds and hearts to draw from in the future and equip them to defy Satan’s provoking.