Thoughts on Ash Wednesday, 2014
People sometimes ask how I can possibly believe, in this day and age, that the Bible is true. After all, I am a relatively smart man. I graduated in the top percentage of my high school class and did just fine for myself in college and grad school. I am not stupid. (Okay, you might want to argue that last point, I realize, but I am moving on…)
So, how can I POSSIBLY believe the Bible? I am fairly intelligent. I am not a social reject. I THINK I am fairly well-adjusted. I do realize the world is round.
So, why and HOW can I believe this ancient writing to be not only relevant, but TRUE?
My answer contains themes similar to those of Ash Wednesday. I believe the Bible to be true not because it tells me I am spiritually “good” but rather, because it very directly says the opposite. It names the “crap” in my life that I wish was not there.. .the part of me that I do not want the world to see or know about… it names it directly and honestly and then tells me how it has been dealt with. It convicts, but does not shame. And unlike other faith systems, it does not pretend this spiritual problem is not really there, nor does it tell me that I can deal with the problem on my own, out of my own inner “goodness” or effort. I know I can’t… and, thankfully, the Bible doesn’t try to sugarcoat this reality and tell me I can.
Nope. It says, “you have a problem, Jonathan, and it needs to be dealt with.”
Funny thing is, though, when that truth has been named, it is life-giving rather than life-robbing. I feel safety in that honesty rather than judgment, escape or delusional fantasy. The Bible then tells me HOW that crap has been dealt with by God. Not in judgement or condemnation or shame, but through a gift of unconditional and sacrificial love. There is nothing I have done or can do to earn it. It really is just free for the taking.
Ash Wednesday does the same thing. It tells me, with brutal honesty, that I am screwed, spiritually speaking. I am dead meat. I am toast. But in connection to Jesus Christ, I am rescued and ransomed. I get a fresh start. And I have a realistic reason for hope beyond the grave.
Sometimes a HARD truth… (but a truth spoken with compassion, not condemnation) is the best, most effective and most life-changing expression of love. Ash Wed does that. It reminds me that I am, surprisingly enough, not God. I need Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I NEED that reminder from time to time.
Wasn’t it Jesus himself who said, “The TRUTH shall set you free?”
Hmmm… seems like He was on to something…