What’s it really all about? What are we living for? Are my values Godly values? Is the way I spend my precious, finite minutes of life really the best? And what does God want from me, anyway?
For me, Ash Wednesday answers all these questions. Specifically the part of Ash Wednesday when the pastor makes two swipes of a dirty thumb across my forehead and says, “Remember, human, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The gesture and the words express our lowly condition as human beings: Time will destroy us despite the defensive ramparts and barricades we construct with our money, our fame, our beauty, our power, and so on. So if death and dust are inevitable, Ash Wednesday asks us, why do we human beings build our silly defenses as if, AS IF they will protect us? Why build put up barriers when instead, we can use our time, our wealth, our creativity and power to live free, abundant lives for God’s purposes?
Ash Wednesday reminds u s that all of us are guilty of the great sins of failing to love the Lord Our God with all our being and failing loving our neighbor as ourselves. Lent calls us to repentance and self examination. And exactly this is the meaning of repentance — to turn away from sin and turn towards God.
How we use our lives and what we are living for are, ultimately, issues of stewardship. Ash Wednesday dramatically condemns us, all of us, for being poor stewards of the bountiful lives that God gives us. Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are “dead people walking” and sets the tone for our Lenten self examination.
Of course, Ash Wednesday isn’t the end of the story. That will come 40 some-odd days from now, and we’ll discuss that later. For now, meditate on these words: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return!”
Photo by On the White Line, used by Creative Commons license. Thanks!