Wednesday, February 22 was Ash Wednesday. Many of us gathered in the sanctuary at Second Presbyterian Church, and churches around the world, to hear the Word of God proclaimed, to partake in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and to be marked on our foreheads with ashes.
It is a strangely wonderful sight to see pilgrims of all ages, sizes, and hues waiting in line to receive the mark of the cross in ash and to be reminded of their frailty and mortality. The minister drags her thumb through the ashes, looks each person in the eye as she gently traces the cross on their forehead, and says, "Remember, that from dust you were formed; to dust you shall return."
Yes, what a strangely wonderful site.
This message is a message of truth and a dose of reality we all need to hear and experience. This is especially true in a time when we spend so much energy, imagination, and money trying to convince ourselves that it just isn't so. If we work hard enough, if we pay enough money, if we do all the right things we will never have to face the fact that we are indeed frail, broken, and mortal. This is the message we are tempted to buy into so we don't have to face the truth.
In Lent, we are called to remember the truth of our mortality and take comfort in the fact that in the midst of the reality of our lives, in the midst of our deserts, God is present. God calls us, through the Christ, to accept our mortality not as a curse, but as a blessing of who we are created to be. It is in the desert of Lent that we are reminded that it is God who sustains life. It is in the wilderness that we discover that the things to which we are tempted to cling so tightly are only temporal treasures. It is during these long 40 days that we can find joy in the treasures that are eternal "where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20).
This Ash Wednesday, a family stood in line to receive the reminder on their foreheads in the form of an ashen cross like so many others. However, this family was different. What made this family stand out from the many others standing with them was the child they held in their arms. This mother and father came to not only to be marked but to present their six month old child to have the ashes placed on her forehead. This beautiful young life had the truth of her own mortality whispered into her ears and rubbed on her pink skin.
It was a powerful scene. It was an overwhelming a reminder that it is never too early to be reminded of the truth of the fragility of life and the sustaining power and presence of God.
Take the opportunity during this season of Lent to have these conversations with your young person. Talk about the fragility of life. Talk about human frailty and brokenness. Talk about the sustaining power of Christ in the midst of the reality of life. Talk about this truly counter cutlural message of the desert of life and the journey toward the cross. This is a new narrative. Discover together the beauty of this 40 day journey.
May this Lenten Season be a journey of faith for you and your family.