My partner Daniel likes to make a few of what I call, "Ash Wednesday Jokes." On what is suppose to be this very serious day, he always says something like: "This is gonna be the best Lent ever!"
I find his joking hilarious because it's so odd: making a joke on a day when jokes don't seem to make sense. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent and that brings about images of ashes and pastors telling people that they are dust and to dust they will return. It's also a time when we try to "give something up for Lent," or fast a few days during the season. Lent is a lot of things, but levity is not one of them.
But the thing is, Daniel is right. We should look at Lent not as a time of sadness, but with hope and expectation.
Yes, a day like Ash Wednesday and indeed the whole time of Lent is a time to remind ourselves that we are sinners, that we fall short of the mark and that we make a mess of things. But it is should also be a time when we are reminded of God's grace and the fact that even though we fall short, we are forgiven by God. Christ's death on the cross and his later ressurection freed us from the consequences of sin.
The epistle for Ash Wednesday talks about how through Christ we are made righteous. Kind of an odd text for Lent, huh? But the thing is, we need to be reminded of that as much as we do our sin. We are made free in Christ. Hope is not lost.
Paul's second letter to the Corinthians also has in it a bit of a lenten discipline. Because we are free in Christ, we are called to be reconciled to God. We don't try to live as God's people so that we can become God's people; we try to live as God's people because we are God's people.
So, maybe this Lent we should remember that we are God's. Maybe we should remember that yes, we are sinners, but we are sinners saved by grace. Maybe Lent should be as much a time for joy as much as it is for introspection.
Maybe it should be the best Lent ever.