I have Jesus’ fingerprints on my head. We’ve just returned from Ash Wednesday service, and I have been touched by His hand. We are entering the Lenten season, and as with every year, I am giddy with gratitude.
As much as I love Contemporary Worship, the keeping of the traditions of the Church move me in unspeakable ways. The heaviness of hundreds of years of hearts and minds standing in the same place that I am settles deeply within me. It is not a burden. It is a kinship. And my heart longs for those deep reaching roots.
Tonight I stood in line with my brothers and sisters and waited for my Pastor to make a cross of ashes on my head. My two children stood in front of me, and when I heard her speak the words over Jeffrey, a lump formed in my throat.
“Jeffrey, you are dust and to dust you will return.”
It made me shudder to hear these words spoken to my baby. And in that moment I was keenly aware of the sacrifice that has been made on my behalf.
As I took my place to receive the ashes, my pastor ceased to be my friend. Instead, she became the hands of Jesus. She called me by name, because He loves me.
“Laura, you are dust and to dust you will return.”
The intimacy of the moment took my breath away, and I felt His breath on my cheek. The ashes fell onto the front of my shirt as I walked back to the pew. A cascade of sorrow, of guilt and shame. And I wondered if His blood fell in such a pattern. When it struck the earth, did the soil moan with sorrow? Or did it rejoice at the prophecy fulfilled? Somehow, I have such difficulty finding joy in that moment. Only shame. Because I am unworthy. Oh, my God, I am unworthy.
“Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.”— (2 Samuel 13:19)
This is the sorrow I feel as I enter into Lent. The sorrow of shame. But intermingled with this I something else. I ask God over and over: Why did you have to do it this way? Wasn’t there a better way? And then I am flooded with gratitude and I understand.
Lent is a time of contemplation and self-denial. It is a time to shelter under His wings and experience His might and His goodness. To me, all of earth seems to pause and breathe more deeply. Waiting.
Oh, Dear Ones, we are waiting. Easter is on its way.