“You are dust…” Genesis 3:19
It was Ash Wednesday and I was explaining to the 5th person of the day that no that wasn’t dirt on my forehead and no thank you, I didn’t want it removed. For the others, once I told them that it was Ash Wednesday and that these were the ashes I had received in church, they would smile and say, oh yes, I forgot. But for this last one, an acquaintance I had known for years, she leaned in closer to me, staring at the black smudge on my head, and asked, aren’t you embarrassed to walk around like that all day?
Her question took me aback momentarily. Embarrassed? I do find Ash Wednesday to be an day filled with emotion, but embarrassment is not one of them. Before I could respond, she pulled out a tissue and said, “Please let me clean that off before we go out for coffee. I’d be mortified to be seen with you with dirt on your face.”
“And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19
She went on to say that she “hated” the Ash Wednesday services, found them to be horribly depressing, and didn’t like to carry around the humiliation of having ashes placed on her forehead with her all day long. I have to say I was shocked by this. I wondered which one of us was misguided about what Ash Wednesday is all about.
Ash Wednesday is for me, a sign of spring.
“Ashes indicate there was once fire. We go to the source to be inflamed again. God is fire; we are ashes.” (from the Living with Christ Missalette for February 2010, written by Robert Dueweke)
Spring is a time of rebirth, growth, renewal in nature. Everything starts to grow again, turn green again, come alive and seem so fresh. For me, spring is a happy time. Nature gets a second chance. So do I during Lent.
Ash Wednesday, to me, signifies the beginning of MY renewal and growth. Lent is a time for hope, a time for healing, a time of God’s abiding love. Embarrassed? No way! I wear my ashes with pride and joy in the knowledge that the arrival of spring is imminent, not only in nature, but in my heart and soul.
“We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do. We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew…” (from the hymn Ashes by Tom Conry)
“As we leave with ashes on our foreheads, let us walk toward the blazing energy and promise of the Easter fire.” (from the Living with Christ Missalette for February 2010, written by Robert Dueweke)
Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our invitation from the Lord. Lent is a time for introspection and action. Examine your conscience and ask God to show you the things in your life that are keeping you away from His love. Choose to make some sacrifices to allow space for more of God’s presence in your life.
Take up some new practices that will help you to focus on God more closely. Spend time in prayer allowing God to guide you to the path you were meant to follow.
Even now says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:12-13)