Lent Devotional // Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-17, Psalm 23

I always feel a little self-conscious on Ash Wednesday. In years past I have had ashes in the shape of a cross smudged on my forehead. Typically, I would receive ashes in the morning and then go about my day. Going to work, running errands, last year I even had a doctor’s appointment and a book club meeting.

Then someone asks, “so, uh, what do the ashes mean?”

You can’t say “I don’t know.” That would be pretty embarrassing. But can you really tell them the truth?

Death. The ashes are about death.

For most of us Ash Wednesday looks a little different this year. No ashes-to-go on the way to work. No awkward encounters with acquaintances. Maybe no leaving the house at all. Plus, the reality of death we are supposed to remember today has been impossible to forget over the last year.

It is still true that from ashes we come, and to ashes we shall return. Our sense of this is more acute than ever. Now we know that everything can stop. Our world can completely change. Loss is never as far away as we want it to be. Things we held onto for security can be ripped from our hands in a flash.

After what has felt like a year long Lent, we find ourselves at the Ash Wednesday again. My impulse is to ask if we can have a pass on Ash Wednesday and Lent this year. Haven’t we been through enough? We are ready to get on with the resurrection and new life of Easter.

The problem with skipping ahead to Easter is that we miss God’s invitation to us today. Return to me. God knows we have drifted and wandered away from who we were created to be. God knows we have made mistakes and ignored opportunities to serve others. Today and the next forty days are our opportunity to make things right. To return to God.

May our hearts seek to return to God, even as we walk through a dark valley. Amen.