“Have mercy on me, O God; according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions…” – Psalm 51:1
As a child, I never understood why people walked around with soot on their foreheads. I was raised in an independent Pentecostal church and Roman Catholics were at best misguided and at worst, the enemy of all true Spirit filled Christians. I had no idea that the ashes had anything to do with the Church.
As an adult, I was struck by the absurdity of not bothering to wipe the ashes from your forehead. Yet, at the same time I came to respect the amount of self-acceptance if not outright audacity that is required to walk around in public declaring that you are a penitent follower of Christ. I admit that I don’t always feel that well adjusted. It feels a little awkward sometimes to wander the streets or spend a day at the office with ashes on my head…in the 21st century (c’mon, tell me that your iPhone or Droid doesn’t make you feel just a little like you’re on an episode of Star Trek). Of course the irony is, I have these thoughts and feelings because I’m focused on me. I’m more concerned with my own comfort, which is of course one of the many reasons I desperately need Jesus in the first place.
So today, on Ash Wednesday I went to church and participated in the liturgical imposition of ashes and officially entered into the season of Lent. It wasn’t comfortable and I’m sure the next 40 or so days will continue to be so as join with other Christ followers in prayer, fasting, and an examination of my own heart and the saving work of Jesus Christ.
“Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God’s mercy any longer and hanged himself? Or are we like Peter, who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins?” – Henri J. M. Nouwen