Snowflakes fell softly out of the gray sky like ashes. Gradually, a carpet was piled on the stump of a mighty Sequoia where I stood. There my soul, alone on that tree-topped mountain last Lenten season, experienced the quiet, steady presence of God. The whole world on top of that hill fell silent under the sprinkling from heaven.

This experience has come to transform my understanding of the traditionally celebrated Christian season of Lent. My hope is that it transforms yours as well.

Though many Evangelical Christians have cast aside this holiday as alien to modernity and Protestantism, I suggest that the observation of Lent gives man a better understanding of his Savior and the gift of salvation.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, calls us to remember not only the temptation of the Son of God in the desert for 40 days and nights but also the temptations that assail our own hearts in this life.

Namely, the temptation to trade our praise for accusing fingers pointed at our Maker.

This temptation is best symbolized by the origin of the ash imposed or sprinkled on worshippers’ heads around the world in an Ash Wednesday service.

Traditionally, the ashes are from the charred palm branches of the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration.

They are ashes of fickle praise.

On Palm Sunday, the Church celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the crowds of adoring Israelites sang, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Five days later, on Good Friday, the crowds shout a different, damning tune, “Crucify Him!” (Matt. 21:9; Matt. 27:21)

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This juxtaposition is remembered on Ash Wednesday, in solemn humility.

This juxtaposition resulted in the fall of the first man and women in the garden of God, the fall from glorious blessing to vicious accusation.

This juxtaposition was advocated by Job’s wife when he lost all but his life, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9)

This juxtaposition plagues our own hearts in times of plenty and in times of want.

This juxtaposition Jesus utterly crushed when tempted by Satan. After 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, the Son of God rejected it with the banishing words, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matt. 4:7)

Lent is not a season to revamp failed New Year’s resolutions but to humble ourselves before the Lord.

To this end, the pastor reminds a worshiper on her knees while he sprinkles the palm ash, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Through this humility, and this humility only, are we set free.

Free from the “spirit of slavery,” free to be “sons of God.” (Romans 8:15-16)

Free to be “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:17)

This is the essence of the Christian season of Lent. Much as Advent longs for Christmas, so too does Lent long for Easter, anticipating the fullness of glory to be revealed.

Let Christians of all traditions this Lenten season remember our lives are as fragile as snowflakes, secured in Christ alone.

Without the mighty hands of the Potter, your life is but dust, and “to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:9)

Catie Robertson is an intern with the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Government.

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