I love ashes.
Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the day some Christians celebrate the first day to Lent. For many Lent is a time of preparation and communion with God leading up to Easter.
The ashes of Ash Wednesday are a symbol of both penance and (that phrase I think of from the old childhood rhyme) “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” – the idea that we were born of ashes and dust and to that state one day we will return.
Ashes are a worthy symbol to begin a time of spiritual rebirth. For ashes to come about first there must be fire.
The image that comes to my mind is a building that is burned down, a pile of ashes remaining. It’s a sad thing and tears are often shed. Sometimes it happened because someone was careless, sometimes because of a natural disaster, sometimes it was a purposeful action.
Such is the state of our spiritual lives, at times. They lose their vibrancy and purpose. Sometimes because we are careless, sometimes because other factors intercede, and sometimes because of our willful actions.
But once that burned building is taken down to the ground, you can clear that land and rebuild. Usually you can build something sturdier and safer and better for its occupants. Often it is more beautiful. Sometimes it begins to revitalize the neighborhood and change lives.
Such is often a need for our spiritual lives. Maybe we don’t need a total tear down, but maybe we need a bit of renovation. Lent is a time we can examine our hearts and see where there are ashes and where there is life. Once we take inventory we can clean it all up and rebuild.
I love ashes, because on this first day of Lent they are a symbol of acknowledging those areas where we miss the mark, feeling remorse, seeking the forgiveness of a good God, and renewing our passion for a well-lived life.
May the season of Lent be a time your heart grows closer to God, and your life reflects it.
“From the ashes, a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring…” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring