Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, reminding us all to take time to reflect as we enter the season of Lent, humbly seeking renewal and grace in our lowly, mortal state of being.

Traditionally this verse accompanies marking one's forhead with ash:

"Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return."
Genesis 3:19

There is so much in me to repent of, but there is so much grace to cover me! It is good news, and my heart feels both lighter and heavier as I contemplate the paradox of conviction and mercy - sin and love.

Another Andrew Peterson lyric goes:
Give us hearts to find hope, Father we cannot see
how the sorrow we feel can bring freedom...

The reference to wearing ashes always brings me first to Mordecai in the book of Esther. Then to modern day, with the Wailing Wall in Israel.

There is a kind of unexpected freedom in sorrow, but we have no room for public grief in the West. We give people a few days before a funeral and perhaps a few days after. Then it's back to work. Back to life. "Get on with it." Not only with death, but with any deep mourning - the American Dream does not tolerate angish or extended grief.

On one hand, I think there are too many Christians in bondage today (women in particular) because of malicious shame placed on them by the church - usually for issues of sexuality.

On the other hand, there are too few Christians in the West who have experienced the deep sorrow of acknowledging their own sin natures. Bonhoeffer coined the term "Cheap Grace," and I believe it covers the casual, sometimes reckless way in which we mentally assent to Jesus without tasting the blood he spilled for us, or comprehending why that blood is on our own hands.

And so tonight I meditate on my own guilt and my own cleansing through Christ, and pray for tangible understanding of how to be healed amidst sorrow - built up as I am broken.

read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at


crsimon said...

Mourning and sorrow are given only token respect in our society. You're right, the American Dream will only tolerate them as long they are dealt with quickly. Fortunately, much of this Dream is limited mainly to America.

Cheap is a painful reality of which I am guilty of as well. I am attempting to see beyond that, though.

tim, Payap said...

Repentance is always needed.

nate said...

Sorry I missed this post. I couldn't agree more with you or crimson--that the American Dream doesn't tolerate anguish or extended grief--both of which I believe are among the blessings of humanity.

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