We went to the Ash Wednesday service at church tonight. It's the first time WMB has held such a service and coming from a conservative evangelical background, it was never a part of my tradition growing up either. And that's a shame.
While there is nothing magical about having ashes spread on your forehead in the sign of a cross, it was a significant time for me as Stephanie, our youth program coordinator, said the traditional words, "This is a reminder that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Hearing those words softly spoken then opening my eyes and looking directly into the eyes of another believer was a holy moment. The intimacy of that brief exchange pared with the recognition that this same ceremony has taken place in the Church for over one thousand years, filled me with appreciation for the work of Christ in our midst. It was a very visceral reminder that we are all part of one family, one body, who are finding our way to God as best we can.
Equally significant was seeing each person return from the front of the church with the smudged cross visible and recognizing that we are all, every one of us, broken. Rather than despair, I take great comfort in that fact. No matter the quality of our clothes, the prestige of our jobs, or the amount of money we have in the bank, we all in the end but dust, which puts us all on a level playing field as we pursue Christ and are pursued by Him. That God should love us, creatures of dust, enough to die on a cross is mind boggling.
On this first day of Lent, I am thankful for the ashes of death that remind me of the Author of life.