Today I’m completely immersed in thoughts and preparation for Ash Wednesday and the 40 days of Lent. Each year, I revisit what I believe are the reasons why we put ashes on our foreheads and are willing to be reminded that we are dust and that we will return to dust. That is, we are mortal; we won’t be here in this earthly life forever.
Looking back at the time when I was growing up, I can’t remember one time when the church I was a member of talked about Lent, or Ash Wednesday. That doesn’t mean we never did, of course. At least by the time I was a teenager, when I should remember those things, I’m pretty sure I had my mind on a certain handsome young man. I was not thinking about being dust! I was alive and glad of it!
But, over the years, I’ve come to love this season in the church year so very much. Life gets to be such a whirlwind, doesn’t it? Do you ever just feel like you can’t catch your breath? Time, and all that is in it, year after year, just swirls around and flies by and before you know it you are old. Or on the verge of old. Where did the time go?
In the last stages of life we are usually thinking about what we accomplished and whether or not we are pleased with where we’ve been, or, if we have regrets for what might have been.
That’s one of the reasons I like this season so much. It calls me to think about my life before I get to the end. It invites me to sit down in the ashes of my own making and just reflect. It is a time for being sober. (You can take that quite literally, or you can take it to mean being serious.) If I sit long enough and be quiet long enough, God just might reveal something to me. I have this frightening thought that when I die I will have to see a rerun of all the stupid things I did while here on earth. I really hope, if that is true, that God has a good sense of humor! I think my cheeks might burn from embarrassment. If that’s the way it is, then so be it. I have a belief that Jesus will be there with me, holding my hand and helping me to get over that regretful scene and move into that place of Shalom.
But, isn’t that kind of how Lent is? We start out with those ashes and that sober reminder that we truly are frail mortals and that we need help. And as we walk through that journey of Lent – through the wilderness – we can’t help but see those stupid things we did over the past year, and we have this great opportunity (even before we get to the real end of our life) to repent and to turn back around again. And on this journey, even now, we have Jesus, who walks with us. We are never alone.
So, whether you go to church tonight and actually have the sign of the cross made on your forehead, or not, I invite you to take a few minutes for silent reflection, just realizing how mortal and dependent you are on God – God, who created you, and loves you, and calls you into relationship; God, whom you can trust to get you through your darkest nights; to carry you through your self-made ashes; God, who will forgive; who gives new life. That’s the joy at the end of the journey. New life. Transformation. Easter awaits on the other side!
I am a woman with many interests, yet most of them flow into what is my source of life, my very breath, the reason I do what I do. I am Called. That means, for me, I have experienced a call on my life to serve as a pastor to God’s people. In that calling I love to write, to speak, to lead, and to teach. My deepest desire is to pass on to others what I have experienced in my own journey of grace. I am human, and in that humanity I have known passion and joy, sin and disgrace. Yet, in God’s love I have known nothing but love and redirection and total grace.