remember that you are dust … and to dust you shall return
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded of this sometimes harsh reality. We are mere mortals. We begin as dust and one day we will return to the same state – nothing but dust. Growing up in a liturgical church I became familiar with these words from a very early age. Each year we were reminded that our lives here on earth would one day end. That we would return to dust.
It’s easy for us to focus on the beginning and the end. But I don’t think that’s what Ash Wednesday is all about. Ash Wednesday is the invitation to go on a new journey. A journey of introspection, of intentional meditation, of discovering who it is that God has created us to be.
The good news as we start this journey is that we know how it ends. We know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve heard the story before. Jesus wins! Our journey is not one into complete darkness. Instead it’s a journey to the resurrection. It is only in knowing where the journey will take us that we are free to explore and enjoy the journey in the meantime.
But again – it’s not about the end. It’s in knowing the end that we are able to live through the journey. If we focus only on the end, we miss so much. Life isn’t about the beginning or the end – life is about the in between. It’s about the memories we make and the stories we tell along the roads we travel.
I remember the year I gave up chocolate for lent. I think I was about 11. It was awful. I counted down the days until Easter. And in my family, Easter didn’t come until after you had attended the Easter Sunrise Service at 5:30am. So you can imagine me running, as fast as I could, to the car after that sunrise service. I didn’t care that I hadn’t eaten breakfast or that it was only 6am. That Reese’s peanut butter egg in my easter basket was calling out my name.
It was only as I got older that I realized the significance of giving something up for Lent. It’s not to deny myself something that I love, but it’s to give myself a reminder of the journey that I’m on. Every time I desire the very thing I’ve given up, I remember the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness. I remember Jesus’s journey to the cross. I remember my own journey to discover who it is that God has created me to be. And instead of indulging in the thing I gave up, I have the opportunity to turn to God in prayer and meditation. Not out of denying myself pleasure, but in search of something new.
Because new is what we’ll find on Easter morning. Sure, we may be dust, and our bodies may one day return to dust. But Jesus gives us the promise of a full life in between the beginning and the end. He invites us to a journey. A journey of repentance. A journey of remembrance. A journey of discovering who we are created to me.
Will you join me on this journey?