BY MARIA SAUER
Ash Wednesday can be seen as the starting line to the Lenten Season. It is as if you are at the mark in starting position and the starting gun is fired. Or maybe you stumbled to the starting mark not too prepared and are barely in your starting position when you hear the starting gun fired. While the preparation for the race is important, the importance of the race is what happens during it. Someone might take off from the starting blocks, make long strides and then begin to stumble along the track. Someone else may take off from the starting mark, not even from the position of starting blocks and find themselves feeling powerful in their run. There is preparation for the start of the race just as the race is the preparation for the finish line.
Whether you were prepared for the Lenten season by having an idea in mind for how you could grow or unprepared because Ash Wednesday sprang up on you unexpectedly, the start cannot be what defines your transformation. Throughout the journey of Lent, I have reflected on aspects of my life that I had not imagined of thinking of before. However, it was through being prompted to assess my life and what stands in the way of my relationship with God that began my reflection. It may not have been Ash Wednesday that prompted reflection for another person but rather a desire for change that came about two weeks into Lent. Regardless, there is always a place to begin transformation.
Beginning with Ash Wednesday, people may have reflected on what stands in the way between them and God. This may have been followed with fasting, prayer or abstaining from aspects of one’s life. As each person is called to simplicity of life, these Lenten practices are an effort to prepare for the death and resurrection of Christ on Easter.
In an effort for preparation, the first step oftentimes seems to be the desire to be changed. This can entail letting go of an identity or condition that defined us. A past injury can prevent someone from lining back up at the starting mark and running a race. For reasons of being injured again, not running your strongest or simply fear, there are conditions that define people and prevent them from ever starting something new. Too easily do we cling to an identity that has long defined us that we become content to stay in the place that we are at. If this is the case, change will be very difficult. Change begins with desire, because it is desire that can rise up hope and open the way for transformation.
Whatever place you are at, let go of what is holding you from running the race and grasp onto the desire that moves you. On Easter, when “Alleluia” is sung for the first time since the start of Lent, we rejoice. We rejoice for what Jesus’ resurrection means as well as what we are leaving in the tomb and the person we are walking away as. Lent has been a time to be cleansed of what has kept us from becoming the person we are meant to be. On Easter, we are given a new life to leave the tomb with. The sound of the starting gun being fired prompts reflection and desire. Strides taken throughout the race may be strong or weak. However, the race does not end on Easter. The tracks continue just as our day-to-day lives continue. We carry on beyond Easter with the desire for continual transformation. As strides are made through Easter, aspects of ourselves that have long been preventing us from transformation are left behind. No more is the tomb sealed. The tomb rolls away as we praise the resurrection of Christ and the new lives we are given.
Christian or nonChristian, there is room in each person’s life for growth and transformation. Each and every person, at some point in their life, has been encouraged by a desire. This may have led to vulnerability or being honest with oneself, but it may have also ultimately led to a better self. As the starting gun is fired in each person’s life to indicate the start of a transformation, we are prompted to stop focusing on what has been preventing us from bettering ourselves and to begin a walk towards renewal. We are prompted to breathe in freedom and step away with new life.