We enter the season of Lent. It all starts with Ash Wednesday. I've been thinking a lot about Ash Wednesday this week - even wishing we could have had an Ash Wednesday service.
Once again, Tish Warren, in her recent Prayer in the Night, has been a help. She writes - "We cannot live well if we deny the truth of where we are headed." Where are we headed?
We all will one day die.
Learning to accept our mortality - not denying it - not sentimentalizing it - not running from it - helps us learn to live through Christ. We live knowing that all we have and all we are - our strength, our wealth, our accomplishments - it's all fleeting. Like our very breath.
We are invited to live in view of our death so that we might live in the light of the hope we have in Christ - the only way to resurrection is through the darkness of death. What's more - a blessing we find in the darkness is the blessing of meeting God Himself. It's the blessing we all are headed towards, in the end.
This doesn't mean we revel in death. Far from it. But this remembering that we are but dust, and to dust we will return, can teach us to live. Tish continues -
It allows us to know that the day to seek God, the day to repair relationships, the day to help others and bless the world around us is today - because it may be our last. Meditating on our mortality teaches us to live in light of the larger story of which we are a part, to locate our small joys or tragedies in the scope of eternity.
The ashes marked on foreheads for Ash Wednesday are a poignant reminder - "Don't forget! We are dust. The stuff we live for is fleeting - hold on to what is real and what will last!"
What's more - daily realities and routines - sleep, sickness, weariness, even nighttime itself - are "ordinary and unbidden ashes on our foreheads," as Tish puts it. Each in their own way reminding us of our vulnerability. Each - inviting us to locate our hope in the celebration of resurrection life to come and the joy of meeting God Himself - our deepest consolation.