“Happy Ash Wednesday” always seems a little bit like an oxymoron. Ash Wednesday, while sacred, is not particularly happy. An Ash Wednesday service is solemn, including putting a cross of ashes on the forehead of each member of the congregation and reminding them, “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.”

“Lent,” as I just learned from this beautiful article on Relevant,┬ácomes from a Latin root that also gives us “lengthen.” In this cold and difficult time of year, the days are slowly lengthening and more light is working its way into every day. Lent is a time to prepare ourselves for the ultimate coming of that light. The more we understand our existence in ashes, the more awe we will find in the coming of the new life.

This Lent, I’m participating in an Instagram project with The Neighborhood Church, my home church in Colorado. Each day, there’s a word to serve as inspiration to take and post a picture. I want to take it a step further, though–writing has always been an important way for me to engage with my faith, so I’m going to endeavor to write a piece each day, or most days, following the theme. “Ashes” is the inspiration for today, so keep an eye out.

I won’t say “Happy Ash Wednesday.” But, along the lines of C.S. Lewis’s Joy with a capital J, I will wish you a Joyous Ash Wednesday and Lenten Season.