Today is Ash Wednesday.
In the Christian faith, this is the beginning of preparing ourselves to observe Easter as the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 days of prayer and fasting known as Lent. We fast following the example of Christ when he was lead into the wilderness to fast and to be tempted by Satan. Basically, this entire observance is a time when we reflect on the death and the resurrection of Christ and imitate the things he did leading up to his death in order to prepare himself for the HUGE task of ushering us into salvation.
So, on Ash Wednesday, people go to service to have their heads smudged with ashes, traditionally, from burned palms from last year’s Palm Sunday service which is the service before Easter. Ashes appear in the bible many times as a symbol of mourning, consecration, and even a blessing. It’s customary that those observing Ash Wednesday, receive a smudge of ashes on their foreheads accompanied by a blessing from a clergy member. Now, I’m no bible scholar so pretty much all the things I’ve learned about this holiday are mostly things I’ve read and cross referenced. While researching the actual ritual of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, a particular thing stood out to me that is very relevant to our condition as Christians who are triggered by the idea of not being in complete control of life’s happenings.
As a person receives ashes, they may hear the words, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.” It’s in reference to the above verse. That verse helped to put my worries into perspective for two reasons:
- I am a fully functioning being, fully composed of what will decompose when my spirit has left my body. I’m literally made of the makings of dirt. How amazing is it that God designed a person as complex as I am and as you are from what he found lying around (figuratively speaking). That’s encouraging to me because there are so many times when I get hung up on not being able to make things happen the way I want them to happen completely overlooking the fact that God is able to make great things come from absolutely nothing.
- My physical body came from the Earth and will return back to it. As amazing and as great as God has created me to be, it’s inevitable that what I see looking at me in the mirror will one day be nothing again. Every time I get beside myself with how well I’m able to maintain control over the things God has given me power over, I have to remind myself to be humble. Just as quickly as someone can admire my shiny accomplishment and accolades, I can return to dust and be forgotten and reduced to nothing if I’m not doing things for God’s glory.
So while we’re observing this period of fasting, let’s be mindful of the the attitude we maintain. While we’re experiencing the discomfort of the thing we’ve removed from our daily life for the next 40 days, let’s remember to remain humble in recognition of our position as servants to God and to Each other. In the absence of the thing or things we’re fasting, take time to remind ourselves who gives our vessels of flesh and dust purpose. For the next 40 days, let’s get our dust in check. I pray we all end our 40 days with a new sense of submission and purpose.