Are Ashes actually signs of hope in a hopeless world?
This morning I went to church with Chris and the boys. We all got our Ashes, except Vincent who politely declined. I guess for the most part I know why we go. It’s somewhere between the feeling of it being important and the strange desire to torture ourselves and everyone around us with two super loud children in Church – I mean come on doesn’t that sound awesome?
But part of me couldn’t help but wonder why.
Why do people flock to Church for this? What is the point?
I’ve got some ideas.
1. We want to have a place to go home.
You may know the feeling at the end of a long day. You want to go home. When stuff is hard or easy or fun or whatever or maybe your shoes hurt or your jeans are too tight because you ate the yummiest fried pickles and now you feel like you may explode.
Whatever the circumstance we are looking for the place to kick our shoes off and put our feet up. The place where we can stop worrying so much about the right thing to do and be who we are. Ashes are that for many people. On Ash Wednesday I know the drill. I walk up, I am reminded of who I am and where I come from and of how to be, and then I go back about my business with a tiny little barely discernable cross on my forehead (that’s if you had the good asher- which this year I totally did).
Ashes do this for many of us. It’s tradition. We remember it maybe 30 something years from now that my sons will take their little ones and repeat this tradition. Perhaps it will be steeped in meaning and purpose or maybe it will just be a little remembering and going home of sorts. Either way I think it’s a good thing.
2. We know suffering and Ashes can provide hope.
Let’s face it if you’re paying even the slightest amount of attention you know that suffering abounds. Just this week in my personal circle there has been more suffering than one would hope for people to deal with in a lifetime. We all know it, we’ve felt it. It’s left scars and marks and allowed us to do things WE NEVER THOUGHT possible.
The suffering that we begin to enter in at this point with Jesus is one that we can on some level understand. We turn on the news and we see the suffering Christ in so many people. Every year we go back and show up again. We say here we are and we aren’t alone in this. We made it and we will continue on. We’ve got this.
3. We need others.
I say this a lot in my Wednesday ReFreshes and in general. We are a communal people. We NEED each other. Think about it. Even our own creation is all wrapped up in A RELATIONSHIP between two people (I know I just made you think of your parents in an awkward way but it’s real life people).
Ashes mark us. If you think about it we are all walking around with all sorts of marks on our hearts, ones that are invisible to most but so visible to us. These marks can act as reminders but they can also act as connectors. Ashes do this. It’s not so much in a we belong to the same club and have the same embroidered sweatshirt on type of way. It’s more in a yeah you get it. You know there is a reason to show up. You feel the pain of the tough stuff and you’re gonna keep on going. You’re right beside me – here and now!
I think it may be nice to picture that we all have that mark on our foreheads regardless of creed or color. We all have that mark saying we’re giving it a go. We’ve been knocked down before and we will be knocked down again. Sometimes we may need a hand to pick us back up. Sometimes we may need you to actually be our feet for awhile. We just need the reminder that we’re here. Whether we are light on hope or not we have this little inkling, the quiet voice of God that reminds us to just keep going.
Others can be this reminder and so whether you’ve got ashes on your head or not matters less than the fact that you’re willing to be the other for someone in need and that you’ll let someone be that for you.
Love you guys and glad we’re in this together.