18 feb 2016: ash and mirror

The cross on my mirror taunts me, mocks me, startles me anew each day. 

At our Ash Wednesday service, I marked a cross on the foreheads of others, ashes from the fires of our demons, which we burned in worship the Sunday before. Together, we reduced to cinder the things that haunt us, that keep us stuck in self-absorption or self-loathing or self-congratulations or self-serving self-sacrifice. Even self-denial, which can itself become a vice when it keeps us from God by becoming our god. I gathered the ashes we’d made of our secret selves, added oil of anointing, and created a paste that would stick to our foreheads, stick in our minds, while I repeated the words that can stick in our throats: remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. 

Later, I used a grease stick to draw a cross on my mirror, a reminder after the ashes were gone that Lent remains, beckoning, inviting. Or lately taunting, mocking. 

Who am I? With whom am I in community? To what am I called? How do I relate to Jesus and the passion story that will play out over the next several weeks? These are individual questions as much as they are questions of Woodside Church. Easter is about new life, but “becoming” always requires giving up something along the way – things that hold us back or close us in, and frankly, some things that seem appealing in their own ways. What are those things? Surely it is something more than chocolate. What if I’m beckoned to pick up something instead. A cross? The phone? The tab? A gauntlet I’ve thrown at someone’s feet, somewhere along the way? 

Lent is good for us. If we observe it, it can reshape our perspective. Re-root us in our humanity. Re-engage us in our common occupancy of a tiny, fragile planet. 

It is good to consider, to reflect, to respond. Easter will be here soon enough, I suppose, with a freshly cleaned mirror, longer days, a hopeful spirit and more celebratory worship. For the moment, I’ll awake each day to my mirror of ash – my daily reminder that I am not god. 

With you on the ashen journey,