How to Be a Better Ash Wednesday Lover - Kate Bowler

Complicated Grief and Complicated Love with

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How to Be a Better Ash Wednesday Lover

This week marks the beginning of Lent, the forty days in the Christian liturgical calendar leading to the commemoration of Jesus’ crucifixion (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter). For many Christians, it’s a time to temporarily abandon vices, try new spiritual practices, or give up Chik-fil-a milkshakes (Lent conveniently corresponds with Spring Break beach vacation season). Many of my adult friends give up alcohol, or promise to pray more. In the height of my sickness, I started swearing for Lent.

And I was dedicated. Every minor nuisance elicited strings of oaths worthy of any 1940’s cartoon sailor. For forty days, I was more South Park than Southern Living.

I loved feeding my rebellious side, shocking my in-laws during coffee conversation, and the measured nips profanity made against the feeling that I belonged to a world and religion that liked me best when I was victorious. We Christians so often fall into the easy worship of a God who is risen. We love when God is a winner!

After all, who wants to root for the losing team?

Lent is the curious part of the Christian liturgical calendar that mediates more on God’s death than God’s presence. What we are reaching for in Lent, really, is life.

Which is why it’s perfect that Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent – falls on Valentine’s Day this year. As Christians, we choose to love a God who died. A God who rises, yes – but a God we spend forty days with mucking around in the unpleasant weight of a life condemned. Lent makes us fit in our ability to be alive. By attending to God’s death, the better we know how to live.

This Ash Wednesday – Valentine’s Day, I invite you to love the people on life’s losing team. Part of our job as human beings is to link arms with people we love and stare down the abyss together.


Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber says that all are welcome at her Denver church, The House for All Sinners and Saints.

Chatting with Nadia Bolz-Weber, a New York Times bestselling author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint and pastor famous for her tattoos and inclusive worship, helped me understand how much we lose by failing to love people struck down by life. Before Nadia was the most famous foul-mouthed Lutheran in the world, she was an alcoholic and stand-up comedian. Her journey through recovery and her work in church planting (The House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado) are true examples of the gritty beauty to be gained through honest human connection. Follow Nadia on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Hear more on Episode 1 of my podcast, Everything Happens, available here.

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