...not your garments (Joel 2: 13)
I always loved this passage on Ash Wednesday. I think it means that true sacrifice, opening one's heart and soul to change is preferable to large, emotional displays of grief and penance, overly pious attempts to beat oneself up, psychologically speaking....where one wallows in despair rather than making oneself vulnerable to the realization that we are imperfect.
Ash Wednesday is seen as a solemn ritual, one where you reflect on sin/errors, ways we've disappointed ourselves, others, or God, and how limited is our time on this Earth. But it is also about second chances, of leaving behind the wounds of past, those done by us or done to us. As the song says,
We offer you our failures,
We offer you attempts
The gifts not fully given,
The dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
Give our visions wider view,
An offering of ashes,
An offering to you.
We burn our past misdeeds, the sources of shame in our lives, our failings, into ashes and, like a phoenix, "create ourselves anew", hopefully, into a person more faithful to one's self and one's community. This can involve discipline and sacrifice but also forgiveness and redemption, and the happiness that can come from having integrity and a clear conscience.
May this Lent bring you to a clearer understanding of yourself and your place in the universe.
Edit: I am taking a Social Media fast day but broke it to repost this blog entry I first posted on March 1, 2006. It still holds true for me.