This morning was a heartbreaking scene at our home.
“Guess what day it is?” I excitedly exclaimed as I made my coffee.
“HUUUMP day?” Ally grinned.
Immediately my heart sank. How could this child of mine even joke about such a thing? Today is my day. This is my favorite. And she was joking…or was she? I looked at her – half angry, half broken-hearted – and said, “Seriously, do you know what day it is?” Looking at the half eaten King Cake on the counter, she responded, “It’s really bad planning for Ash Wednesday to be scheduled the same week as TAGS.” (definition: my swim meet should always hold priority to your spiritual weirdness.)
I collected my coffee, keys, and pride and prepared for carpool. As we pulled out of the driveway, she continued with her litany of instructions about things that I needed to schedule into the next two days of preparation. She expressed disgust that we may be “late” (aka she might have to wait an extra 10 min at practice) so that the rest of the family can attend the service tonight. My mind was numbly listening to her to-do’s but I had yet to move past the irritation. Just as my blood pressure began to slow, I asked her if she would like me bring home some ashes from worship for her. Are you ready for the response? No, you are not…
“Mom, I don’t think I have actually had ashes on my head in years. I don’t want zits.” All the while, she was smirking like 13 year-olds do when they know they are holding their parent’s hearts captive.
Here’s the big win: I didn’t yell. I didn’t throw anything. I did not even run in the house to get my anointing oil and smear it all over her hormonal, acne prone forehead. I just died a little inside.
I know that not everyone loves Lent. I have enough church-y experience to know that plenty of people think that this season is dark and depressing and weird. But for me, there is a unique and precious moment that happens when someone literally reminds me of my mortality. And to be on the imposing end of the Ash Wednesday experience is a treasured gift. On more than one occasion I have made the sign of the cross on the forehead of one whose mortality was waning. To mark a child with ashes literally takes my breath away, yet it is necessary and holy to remember the starting and returning point for all of creation.
Today we are reminded that we are God’s. We are but dust and ashes, formed from the breath of a life-giving, powerful source. And from that strength, we are invited into holy co-creation with the Divine. Whatever the hard work of the Lenten season may bring you, know that you are joined by countless fellow travelers on the road of maturity in the Spirit. May the inward journey of Lent push you closer and closer to the revelation of your wholeness in Christ.