Ashes and Oil

“For dust you are, and to dust you will return.” -Genesis 3.19

I would like to be able to say I wholeheartedly believe God makes it easy to find Him. That it isn’t even so much a finding of Him as it is simply a seeing Him. But if actions > words, then that wouldn’t be very honest of me to say at all.

Don’t get me wrong; my heart and my brain and my experience point to a God who is very near. I trust and I know and I write about a God who is very good. But all of those things don’t seem to hold much weight when I let myself get so caught up and so dragged down by the ugliness and brokenness tunneling through our world.

I read the terrible headlines, and then I read the terrifying articles, and then I read the ignorant comments, and I say under my breath, “My God,” because I can’t find or see Him very clearly at all, and maybe a whisper wrenched from all of these collective broken hearts will invoke His interference.

(Let’s all agree to be better Christians by not reading the comments, I guess?)

And I am reminded of another heart-heavy plea:

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
(My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)

*     *     *

I’ve been struggling for the past several weeks how to approach Lent this year, how to dig deeper without losing sight of the world around me. Lent has been my favorite season of faith for many years now (super weird, I know), and I usually have lots of thoughts on it, on how to make it more meaningful for myself. It centers me, it connects me with believers around me and believers who have gone before me. It draws me in and all the way back to the beginning of the Christian church whose remembrance of what happened was so pivotal, so profound.

I love the ancient rituals, the fasting and the prayer, the timeless texts and the scent of ashes and oil. I love the singular focus, just on Jesus, for a little while anyway, the Church hungry for and aware of His life story.

It’s a season of paradox. A season of deprivation in order to steep in God’s divine extravagance. A time of personal sacrifice in order to reorient ourselves on Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice that ushers in life abundant. A season of particular awareness of the God who is always present anyway, calling our attention to the beauty and to the broken, that we may experience Him in life, in death, in every crack and crevice in between.

It is a season when we wear our ashes on our foreheads, our hearts on our sleeves, willing more so to not just acknowledge, but to grieve our own depravity, our own desperate need for a Savior.

*     *     *

I’m still not sure, even as I write this, even as the sun comes up on Ash Wednesday, how I am going to approach Lent this year. I haven’t been certain of any words, any generous insights to this season that means so much, that speaks so deeply.

Even as I write this, I wonder if this year I need to run out of the words. Maybe — and I’m realizing this in REAL TIME — maybe I need to listen more this season. Maybe this season of Lent is asking for my silence.

Maybe I won’t talk so much. I won’t pray so loudly, but sit in silence and let Him speak. Maybe I will hear Him more clearly, hear your hearts more closely.

This season, I will press my ear to the dusty road and listen for the footsteps of Jesus as He turns toward Jerusalem. This year, I will listen to His heart and His words as He cries out for this earth, blood tears staining His robes. I will close my eyes and tilt my head and listen. This year, maybe I will hear the heartbeat of God as Jesus moves closer and closer to the cross, to His surrender, to our redemption.

If you press your cheek against His chest, you can listen with me.


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One response to “Ashes and Oil

  1. Pingback: God’s Reality | Meet the Buttrams

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