Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and marked the beginning of Lent. For the Christian we will spend the next 40 days remembering exactly what it means to go to the cross. But even more so what it means for us in the frailty of our lives. Because “from dust you come and to dust you return.”
I think for many of us Lent is a “good” challenging time and yet so often we find ourselves wanting to get right to Easter. We like the resurrection, the overcoming of death, and the power that Christ has to declare that “death shall have no grip” on not only his life but ours. But I’m challenged to “sit” with the day between Good Friday and Easter. I’m challenged to sit with death.
Death is hard for all of us. It’s hard because we will all lose someone close. It’s hard because death is unbiased. It’s hard because it’s sad and full of grief. It’s hard because while we have hope in Christ and faith in his love and redeeming work we don’t know what “the grave” looks like. We affirm that our bodies stay and our souls rise up to God’s heavenly place, albeit until Christ returns and reestablishes the New Earth, but that space…that grave…looking at it makes us uneasy. It’s not the fact that a body lay in there. It’s not the fact that I reflect on my own mortality, but it’s the fact that we, as a society, don’t do well with death. It’s because we don’t talk about it, we don’t sit with it, we don’t reflect on it, and we’re simply scared. Everything about it has become taboo.
“From dust you come and to dust you return” are the words spoken as the ashes are applied to our foreheads. It’s an understanding that God created Adam out of dust (Genesis 1-2) and that when we die, because of sin and what Adam and Eve brought into the world (Genesis 3), from dust we return (the “ashes” represent dust). When we die our bodies go into the earth and break down. And if we’re cremated instead? …well…we just turn into ash faster. And while we declare that our bodies stay there and our souls rise to Christ (which I am THOROUGHLY EVER THANKFUL FOR) the point of Ash Wednesday is to reflect on how broken we are and the fact that we don’t deserve heaven and the New Earth. We don’t deserve glory, eternity in the arms of God, and ever-present love. We deserve dust. We deserve death. We do not deserve an ounce of what God has done by sending his Son and his Spirit, and we don’t deserve any of what Christ has done upon the cross (that’s called “grace”).
So let us sit with the grave. Let us sit with grief and sadness. Let us sit with the pain that is before us because it is in that space that we understand the impact of what Christ has done, what he went through, what he endured, and why he did it. So don’t run past the cross into the rising sun (Son). Understand each day, each movement, each cause, and each intentionality. For without the cross there is no grave. Without the grave there is no resurrection. And without all of it…there is no Christ’s coming to earth and atoning for the sins of his people.
Just my 2 cents