Wednesday, February 22, 2012
If you follow the Church calendar, you probably know that today is Ash Wednesday. It is the first day of Lent in which we await the resurrection of Jesus of Easter Sunday. Ashes signifying death. Resurrection signifying life. Ashes are painted on the foreheads of believers in the shape of a cross. It is a reminder of our mortality and the hope we all have through the life of Jesus.
I just had lunch with a friend whose wife's health turned upside down this year. (Hey, that sounds familiar.) Though recipients of different diagnoses, our wives (and their spouses) have sniffed mortality a little closer since last Easter. With each passing day I have noticed myself gain an appreciation for life though ever so slightly closer to death.
Last week I found myself running on the beach witnessing carefree teenagers laughing, flirting, and frolicking. (Do teenagers frolick? Well, maybe six-year olds.) I knew I was old when I couldn't help but think how much more I appreciated my hour at the beach than they did. My pasty white legs and bleached face exposed to the direct sunlight. The smell of sand, seaweed, and saltwater. The chill of the Pacific on my feet. A wave of thankfulness for those I communed with that weekend. That was my beach! And someday they'll probably do the same thing.
Ruth Hailey Barton says that too often we pursue success (however we define that). She says that though Moses because of his sin never reached the Promised Land, that he found something even better. His communion with God trumped any kind of success or destination. It was his real promised land.
Whether you're thinking about ashes today or doing your best to avoid those thoughts, you too are offered the peace that Moses had. Peace beyond my spiritual moment at the beach. Peace that whether or not you reach your "promised land" that the God of the Universe is whispering in your ear - telling you that you're loved, valued, and offered redemption. And you don't have to wander the desert for 40 years before you get there either. You can be a teenager who frolicks or a six-year old or the parent or a grandparent of a frolicking child.
Embrace the ashes!