I suppose I’ve had an intriguing relationship with Ash Wednesday over the years. At times, the day has intersected with some challenging moments and chapters in our lives.
I’ve participated in Ash Wednesday. . .
. . . on the very day an opportunity fell through, and we learned we wouldn’t be making a move we really wanted,
. . . on a day when I was acutely aware I was about to lose a job,
and most challenging,
. . . on the exact date that one of the most beloved people of my life received a terminal cancer diagnosis.
In the Lenten tradition, Ash Wednesday serves as a recognition of impermanence and our own mortality. In various chapters of my life, the date has intersected with real occasions for grief.
And Ash Wednesday can be a powerful tradition:
On one hand, the day can provide an opportunity to feel something cathartic. In our broader culture, we often push away public expressions of grief. There aren’t enough occasions to honor our pain and the pain of others in visible ways. But on Ash Wednesday, people actually wear that pain and acknowledge it in each other’s presence.
And there there is a real expression of hope within this tradition too. Pain, grief, and mortality — real as they are — are not always the final word. In times of great anxiety, we can lean upon one another in speaking this hope:
No matter what we fear,
No matter what we lose,
No matter what we hear,
No matter what we’ve done,
No matter how we’ve failed,
No matter how we’ve been failed,
No matter what has been done to us,
We are loved with a LOVE we cannot lose.
I really do believe that.
And in a time of fear, grief, and anxiety, we can believe and display that every human being is absolutely Beloved — that each and all are worth the Love that forms their being.
Even in the face of death itself, it’s a truth that can be lived.