Beth Felker Jones, a professor at Wheaton College, tells of the time her 6th grade teacher announced that they were going to begin a secret experiment. The kids all perked up and listened closely. The study was to focus on household dust, and the kids would get to study the dust from their own homes under a microscope to find out what it contained. The teacher asked the students to collect dust from their homes, but were told to do so without letting their mothers know. The secrecy was necessitated by the rumor that the mothers would shut down the experiment if they knew that dust bunnies from their homes were being collected for analysis at the school.
We can understand the resistance of those mothers to having their dust collected for study. After all, most of us like to hide our dust and dirt from others. We clean our homes before having company. Those of us who don’t always keep a spotless home like to try to convince others that we do better than we really do.
Of course, most of us do this not only at home, but also in our lives. We generally invest significant energy in hiding our “dirt” and struggles from others and in trying to convince the world that we are clean and have our lives together. We put up a good front, even to church, in hopes that no one will recognize that our lives are messy and less than ideal behind the masks we try to wear.
We have now entered into the season of Lent, the forty days leading to Easter. Through the history of the church, this season has been a time for believers to practice self-examination and repentance. Taken seriously, this is a time to stop hiding the truth about ourselves and acknowledge that we are broken, sinful, and in need of God’s forgiveness and cleansing. It is a time to let go of the false images we create and to be reminded that we are filled with mixed motives, self-centeredness, and other attitudes and feelings we try to bury deep out of the sight of others. Even as we shake our heads at the violence and hatred we see in the world, this is a time when we need to acknowledge honestly the hate and prejudices that still exist in our own hearts.
Through our worship this season as well as through our own devotional and prayer times, let us approach the Lenten season with a commitment to consider prayerfully where God wants to bring changes to our hearts, minds, attitudes, and actions. Let us acknowledge our failures before God and open our lives to God’s transforming touch. For we are beginning a journey to the cross, one that calls us to deny ourselves and follow Jesus.
P.S. Since ice and snow prevented us from having our Ash Wednesday service as planned, we have rescheduled the service for Wednesday, February 25 at 6:30 p.m. Though it won’t be Ash Wednesday officially, this is an important service with valuable reminders for our faith. Hope you can join us!