Last Wednesday, many on Hope’s campus displayed the mark of ashes on their foreheads to celebrate Ash Wednesday, a Christian holy day for peace and fasting. This marker encourages the recipient to “Repent and Believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is also the signifier for the beginning of Lent, a six week period that is dedicated to self-reflection and prayer. Hope College campus ministries distributed ashes at many services on campus for those interested in celebrating the holy day.
This Ash Wednesday fell on the same day as Valentine’s Day, a potential challenge for those giving up chocolate. Many choose to give up a certain favorite candy or sweet. This self-restraint is aligned with the 40 day period of fasting that Jesus endured in the desert. By resisting the bad habits or negative temptations in everyday living, a person may begin to align their motives for fulfillment more closely to the way Jesus spent his time in the desert, and more closely with the message of the gospel. Although many choose to “give up” something, it is also beneficial to include healthy lifestyle changes leading to habits that provide positivity and connection with God. Alicia Bostwick (’20) shared, “I have something far greater than earthly things to hope for.”
Prayer and reflection are integral to this time, and by simply implementing more of these practices into your daily life at Hope, you are participating in the Lenten tradition.
Of course, there are many students on Hope’s campus who do not identify with a faith. However, the practices that are essential to Lent are not exclusive to Christians alone. It is a time of self-reflection and self-care that all may take part in. For those who are not interested in aligning with the faith-based tradition, or are not in a time and place to do so, that is okay. This last stretch of winter is a time where every student can begin to assess how they are spending their time and what types of energy they are inviting into their lives.
In the midst of political battles and violent acts of hate in our nation, we can come together as a campus to work to become a model of love and respect. Do not forget that you have an impact and can influence someone’s day through your words and actions. This is a time to come together as a community, seek to understand those around you and offer support for those who may be struggling. Accept the apology that has been neglected, write the letter to a friend, call the grandparent who misses you, or tell your parents or guardians that you love them. These last weeks of winter are challenging for many, but it is in this final stretch that we can begin to come together to foster a nicer, safer community for all who are here.