Ash Wednesday is less than a week a way, and excitement is building. I have to admit, for most of my life I didn’t think of Ash Wednesday could be exciting. After all, it’s about admitting where I’ve gone wrong, and what I’ve done and left undone. It’s the doorway to a long season of “self-examination and repentance;…prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and…reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” (to quote the Book of Common Prayer.) Lent isn’t supposed to be fun – fruitful, yes, but not usually entertaining. And Ash Wednesday starts it all off with the reminder that we’re dust. We die.
Thanks to Ashes to Go, I’ve discovered that that’s actually exciting.
We’re dust. We die. And the good news about it is that God never meant for us to be immortal, infallible, and perfect. It’s a relief to remember that brokenness is natural – and because it is, healing is possible. We call that repentance and forgiveness.
In the end, Ash Wednesday is a reminder that it’s not ultimately up to me. It’s up to God. And that discovery belongs to the everyday world even more than it belongs to the church. That’s good news for the world in which I miss deadlines, hurt friends by careless words, leave important work undone, and slide past some of the moral commitments I want to keep. The world of commuting, and groceries, and a long day’s work.
I learned that from the people at the train station. The people who spend all of every Wednesday in that imperfect world, and were touched, delighted, and grateful that the Ashes came to find them. People who prayed with me about mortality and repentance and left strengthened for the daily grind (what was that about dust, again?) They taught me that this truth matters even more in traffic, offices, classrooms, kitchens and stores than it does in a quiet, candlelit church.
Some of our Ashes to Go encounters will be lighthearted. Some will involve tears. Others will be brief and unemotional. But the exciting part in every encounter is that the truths we’ve kept inside the church for so many years will be set free in the daily, ordinary world. And that’s exciting.