One of the ways I worked my way through school was by servicing vending machines in the papermill in Millinocket. I can tell you that making paper is a brutal process. It begins with a lot of steam and grinding great trees into little bits. The shredded wood is further mashed until each fiber is broken and the dirt and bark separated out. It is then thrown into acid and boiled and bleached. When the mash is the consistency of oatmeal, it is spread out on a great rolling felt. This forms the pulp into a continuous ribbon that is sent through a vast series of hot steel rollers, until the paper is thinned to the needed thickness and dry enough to be cut into sheets. All the way along the process, bits are pulled off and rejected. But that is not the end of things for the wrinkled or discolored paper. Every scrap is sent back to the beginning and recycled until its right. And lent, is a similar process.
A process is a series of sequential events that are guided by a master, in this case God, to take raw material, or people, from one way of being and transform them into a more useful end product. A process always involves some experiences that break down the raw material, or us. We go to Ash Wednesday and face our mortality and our own sinfulness. Bleach, steam, and acid. Our pulpy pride is broken down. There is then an endless series of rollers. Pressure until we are conformed to the person we are meant to be. Prayer isn't a passive thing. These forty days are meant to transform us.