I think symbols and visual reminders are often helpful in bringing us to a place of greater understanding. For me, the symbol of the ashes was powerful. Over the past year, the threat of death has hovered around us. Sick family members with uncertain futures cause us to experience anxiety and loss. Additionally, I have two friends who have kids fighting cancer. You have hope and you pray for strength and healing, but the threat of death hovers. So last night when I went forward to receive the ashes during our Ash Wednesday service as I looked into the bowl of ashes and heard my colleague say to me, "From the dust you have come and to the dust you will return, but through Jesus Christ we are given life and hope" it was pretty moving for me. I just realized that the hope that I have that in Jesus' ultimate victory over death is something that truly sustains me. The sting of death is harsh. The earthly realities of living without loved ones is too much to bear. But there is a greater hope that lies beyond the grave. We will be ushered into the place where there will be no more sorrow and no more tears. It is to this promise that I cling when the ashes seem to be drowning me.
And so begins my Lenten journey.