The days of Lent have arrived on Ash Wednesday. The days that call a person to discipline and awareness of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. Forty days pointing us to Friday’s anguish of the cross, Holy Saturday’s heavy grief leading to the joy of Easter Sunday.
Ashes of repentance on foreheads signify reflection on one’s mortality and sins. Ashes from the palm fronds waved triumphantly in the worshipful celebration just three days prior. Ashes that remind me to reflect on my spiritual journey.
This year I felt a little like Peter – if it’s a good thing to get a little black cross smeared on my forehead then let me just roll around in the black ashes and cover my whole body. The ashes this year bore stronger tones of grief and darkness than that of repentance. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty in this girl’s life to repent of and reflect on. But some days all of life feels like a pile of ashes around you. Ashes of grief and depression. Ashes of dreams that seem to have gone up in flames. Ashes of uncertainty. Ashes of dark days when you wonder if the sun will ever shine again. Ashes.
When life seems like a heap of ashes why should I keep going? The best answer I have for you is this poem written by Shirley Maya Tan:
On days we feel like scorched earth,
Like corroded rust or trampled dirt,
All we have to do is turn our faces,
Toward the gentle breeze,
And be sprinkled into the four directions,
Be swept away by the wind’s tender breath.
We are made holy
Through this burning,
Like a phoenix rising from it ashes
To become more powerful
Than it ever thought possible.
The scorching does not destroy us,
Rather, it burns through the chaff
Until our greatness is revealed
And what’s of real value remains.
This is our defining hour,
The moment we are made whole
By what has made through the burning.
So, let us be marked,
Not by sorrow or pain,
Not for false humility,
Or, for thinking we are less than we are.
Let us claim our brilliance within the debris,
Let us dance on the ashes of our previous lesser selves,
Let the stars be engraved into our bones,
And our divine fearless nebula return home.
Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust,
From the rust,
OUR MASTERPIECE SHALL RISE.
May your beautiful soul rise strong out of the ashes, dear one!