In honor of Ash Wednesday, I'm reposting the post that started this blog. I will be writing daily in this Joy Blog for Lent again this year as well:)
Ash Wednesday. The day when many people go to church in the middle of the day in the middle of the week to a service that, quite honestly, has always extremely bummed me out. I mean there was a certain cache to it as a little kid, getting out of school for an hour, coming back with ashes smeared on my forehead. A proud beacon proclaiming to the world that I was good because I knew I was bad. But as I grew older, the ashes seemed morbid to me -- really, who wants a reminder that they are going to die, that life is short and they've probably messed up what little time they have. Actually, it kind of pissed me off -- isn't the whole God thing about Life? About Forgiveness? What's with wallowing around in the depressing stuff?
And yet -- somehow I always find myself going to church. On ash wednesday. And so, the last time I went, I wore a bright orange polka dot shirt and a baby blue sweater as an act of rebellion. No sackcloth and black for me. I prepared myself for somberness -- but found something entirely different. As I walked through the heavy arched door, my eyes lowered in proper (if feigned) humility, I discovered words had been written on the floor. Written in a whisper of black ash...
"Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."
I steeled myself for the usual surge of doom, but for some reason, it didn't come. And that's when something wholly unexpected happened. I started to laugh. Yes, laugh. It started as a tickle somewhere deep inside and worked its way up to my throat as I worked my way down the aisle. I knelt at the pew, my shoulders shaking now. Trembling with, what was it? Joy? On Ash Wednesday?? What kind of a Christian am I...?
The kind who was given an amazing gift.
A glimpse of the miracle of it all.
What glory, what magic, what wonder that dust should be raised up in such a way! What sheer beautiful absurdity that dust should walk and talk and wear Jimmy Choo shoes. If dust could be formed into fingers and hearts and eyes that can speak as well as see, is not ANYTHING possible?? I wanted to dance to show that dust can dance too. How??? The human body has 90% chemically in common with dirt for heaven's sake! And yet, here I sit, typing a blog. Breathing, feeling, loving...
And it made me think of an incident with Pippin, my youngest pup, that happened only a few days earlier. I have a steam shower in my bedroom bathroom, if not THE reason I bought my place, at least one of them. I love the swirl of the steam, making me disappear in the glass box of my shower, love drawing on the foggy doors -- some people sing in the shower, I doodle. Okay, I sing too, but that's not important. What's important is, I love the steam. Anyway, as I stepped out of the shower on this particular morning, Pippin was sitting on the mat, toy in his mouth, patiently waiting for me to play. But suddenly, he dropped the plastic toy and began to back out of the room a look on his face I had never seen before...a look of pure fear. The hair on his back stood up and he began to bark, barking for his life it seemed as the steam billowed towards him in in a hazy white cloud. Steam. Just steam -- I tried to reassure him, but he ran from the room. He couldn't understand it, so he feared it.
Oh how much time do I spend, how many days, how many sleepless nights barking at steam? Being afraid of the ashes. Afraid I have sinned too much and believed too little. Thinking the cloud is going to kill me when really its just going to relax me and clear my nasal passages. I faced the fear that day -- the ashes, the reminder of death, the way being reminded makes me feel -- and I let the steam of it all pass over me for what it was, a bunch of hot air. And I found to my amazement that on the other side of fear was joy -- exuberance even. The amazing truth that life is a mystery...a beautiful, wonder-filled phenomenon. Is not anything possible? :)
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