Ash Wednesday was last week. Ash Wednesday is a service in the church calendar that signifies the beginning of Lent and a season of waiting and preparation for Easter. It is a service for reflection and repentance, a time to clean out your heart. I’ve actually loved this service ever since I first experienced it for the first time ten or so years back.

As the saying goes, “S**t happens.” Jesus knows this. So Jesus invites us to come and lay our mess out before Him. Jesus looks at our mess, and us and says, “I love you anyways. Here is my grace, I forgive you. Let go of the mess, change, and walk in My freedom.” What a relief. Except for the last bit, because the last bit is the hard part. Change? Ew.

It’s been my experience that you can’t have the freedom without the change. If I repent but go back to the sin that hurt me in the first place it hurts me again. It might look like my comfort zone, but it’s really my self-destruct zone. When I change and go to where Jesus is leading me I find healing and freedom. It does not look like a comfort zone at all, but it’s really His freedom.

Leviticus has poignant imagery for this concept of change and healing. Chapter 14 goes over the cleansing ritual for someone healed of leprosy. It is incredibly detailed and systematic in timing and cleaning in order to restore health long term. Listen to what the priest does at the sacrificial offering in the center of the process, “The priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot.” (Lev. 14:14 NKJV) After this the priest sprinkles specific oil before the LORD 7 times, which is the number that means complete. Then the priest takes more of the oil and again touches the right ear, thumb and big toe of the person being cleansed. Finally he pours the rest of the oil over the person’s head. (Lev. 14:15-18)

It made me think, when I’m in a season of change after repentance: What am I listening to? What am I doing with my hands? Where am I going? I take the right side to symbolize the dominant side, the side of strength and main attention. So with my strength and my main attention, what am I listening to? What am I doing? Where am I going? Finally, my head, my thoughts, my heart. Where is my focus? Where is my head leading me? These are the areas where real change plays out in real time in real life. Input, action, moving, thinking.

If I really want to step out in Christ’s freedom during Lent I need to answer these questions with Jesus. What am I listening to? The Good Shepherd who knows my name as He whispers to me through scripture and prayer (Jn. 10:1-30). What am I doing? Life-giving actions of love and kindness. Where am I going? Taking steps of obedience and doing the last thing I know God told me to do. What am I thinking? The truth and the promises that God has given me to replace all the lies of the enemy.

I invite you this Lenten season to join me in allowing Jesus, our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16), to touch your right ear, your right thumb, and your right toe and show you where you need to change. Allow Jesus to anoint your head with His oil that you may find freedom and healing in Him.

-Etta Woods

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