Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. This season is all about remembering our humanity, remembering that we are nothing apart from God Whose breath animated us when we were dust. Lent is, I believe, my favorite season of the church year. Perhaps it is because I know all the rest of the time, that I am dust, that I am human, but this season allows me to acknowledge it. I want to take that knowledge with me into the rest of my year.
Tonight, I will go to church and I will have ashes imposed on my forehead in the shape of a cross. This will only be the third time I've done this as an adult. It seems so strange that just three short years ago I was just discovering the Christian Year, just agreeing to get up very early and go to church with a friend to attend an Ash Wednesday service. This day is where it all began.
While I'm thinking about that year with emotion and joy, the rising very early, the unfamiliar prayer book, the companionship of a friend, the walking around school all day and having people treat me completely differently. It feels like a different life. I'm remembering that year, but I'm finding that I'm focused more on this past year. I spent Ash Wednesday at my (then) new church. I had come to them just as Epiphany was ended and I was eager to get into Lent. I remember the service very well. Father Jeff, a very dear man who has since gone to be with the Lord, spread the ashes over my forehead and said: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." How could he have known how quickly he would leave us?
I was reading back today to the first post I ever did about Ash Wednesday. I had just heard a sermon about living forever in the sense that we, as believers, are already living forever. At some point we will transition into living without these earthly, dusty bodies, into living in Heaven, but we will never cease to be living because of who we are in Christ. Lent is truly a bright sadness. It is difficult to think that we and all those we love are dust, liable to return to dust at any moment. There is sadness in that. However, God is not and has never been dust. This is the other side of Lent. We are completely held in the hand of God, a God who can make even something that seems as worthless as dust into something meaningful, something worth saving. We may return to the dust and leave our bodies behind, but we will never stop living, because our lives are hidden with Christ.
This is Lent.
I hope it is a season filled with holiness and introspection for you all.
Thanks for reading.