It is quite unbelievable to me that it is already February. Time seems to be flying faster than I am accustomed to these days.
When I think of February, I think of calendars made of construction paper hung up with masking tape on the walls of elementary school teacher’s walls, dressed in bright pinks and reds and decorated with hearts.
Our culture has declared February to be love month. We center it on Valentine’s Day. We buy chalky heart-shaped candy to share, or give out valentines; we bring flowers to our significant other, or surprise a new love interest in our life with a box of chocolates. The world seems focused on the sugary love that is shared in sweet kisses with our sweethearts.
But the church will celebrate February in a way that is much less sweet and cute. February 10 marks Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent.
Ash Wednesday is my absolute favorite day of the church year. Part of this is because it reminds me of dark evenings spent at church growing up that had a special holiness to them. I remember sitting as a kid, feeling the oddity of worshipping at night and reveling in the experience. There’s just something holy and wonderful in coming together at night to worship God with your community, to sing songs and pray together around candlelight. It’s beautiful.
But the best part of Ash Wednesday was when I would go to the pastor, feel the grit of ashes being pressed onto my forehead and hearing the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Because those words have done two major things for me at various points in my life. When I was a boisterous, obnoxious, middle-school aged girl who thought she was invincible, those words reminded me that one day, I will return to dust. And there’s nothing I can do to change that.
But in years that were plagued with self-doubt, these words reminded me that I am nothing but dust, and yet I am part of the humanity whom Christ lived and died to save from the very things that were causing me to have self-doubt. I am made of merely dust, and yet God charges me and allows me to live a life freely given and inspired by the fact that I have been saved by grace through faith.
Ash Wednesday reminds us of the love that is far deeper than the sticky-sweet love of Valentine’s Day. Ash Wednesday reminds us of the cutting love that God has for us, the love that sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us. The love that tells us that though one day, we will face our own deaths, Christ conquered it for us first.
And so, let us be reminded that we are merely dust, and that God is so much greater than us.
And let us be reminded that we are merely dust, and that God has done so much for us unworthy creatures.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Grace and peace,
Intern Pastor Carrie Smisek