Even now, the ashes cling underneath my thumbnail. When you have the responsibility to spread the ashes on the heads of your congregation, the darkness has a way of seeping into the crevices and indentations where nail meets skin.
Person after person comes before us and we smudge the ashes on their forehead and we visualize the reality that this church will bury each one of these precious, beloved souls. A young girl in leggings. A man in all his strength. My own father. It’s all too much to bear in that moment. Should we let it truly sink in, each one of us as ministers would be a pool of tears before the congregation.
Lent is the hand that drags me, ready or not, to face the fragility of this human life.
Dust you are, to the dust you will return. The darkness of the ashes reflects the grief over our impending reality. It names that the end is not “if” but “when.” To live aware of fragility means facing the brutality of this human existence – the brutality of the spirit within us and within others that kills that which threatens, even if it means killing the Love among us.
Lent is the hand that drags me, ready or not, to face the power of this human life.
The cross of the ashes reflects the hope over the new reality found in Love-Made-Flesh that can overcome even the human spirit of brutality. We follow the tumultuous journey of lowest lows and highest highs as God walks around in the human flesh of Jesus the Christ. It leads to the nailing of the hands and feet but it also leads to the empty tomb of Easter morning. It drags us to the time when we encounter the power of the One whose greatest achievement is made through a living and breathing human body.
Lent is the hand that drags me, ready or not, to face the fragility and power of this human life.
May I consent as the hand drags me so that I may embrace Life in all its joys and sorrows, trusting in the One who embraces me and makes the journey worth the ashes.