For dust you are and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19 NKJV
I grew up going to church with my family on Ash Wednesday. Every year we quietly lined up to receive the ashes in the sign of the cross on our foreheads. As I walked back to my seat, ashes trickled down my eyelashes and nose. I sensed the solemn tone of the service, but I hadn’t yet fully grasped why. What made this day different?
Well, to understand Ash Wednesday, we have to start at Creation.
Starts with Creation
Over seven days, God created the whole world. His first words brought light into the brooding darkness, and on He went with the miraculous, culminating in making man in His image, male and female He created them, Adam and Eve. Adam He created from the dust of the ground, and Eve He fashioned from Adam’s rib.
They lived in a perfect relationship with God and in harmony with the rest of God’s stunning handiwork. Eden was a wonder, overflowing with rivers and every vegetable, fruit, herb, tree, and animal. God set Adam and Eve in the garden to cultivate it and keep it. Best of all, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in a close, uninhibited relationship.
Everything changed when Adam and Eve sinned. Beautiful perfection became a hard-fought existence. As God explained to Adam and Eve all that was going to happen because of sin (Genesis 3: 14-19), He ended with the devastating words, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
And those are the exact words spoken over penitents on Ash Wednesday.
Our Journey Through Lent
Now we have the benefit of knowing God’s plan to redeem man through His Son, Jesus. And on our journey to Easter, we should not gloss over the sacrifice this took as we examine our own lives.
No matter our faith backgrounds, today as we start our journey through Lent, we can all reflect and pray as we ask God to show us what needs to be confessed, so we can make room in our hearts for what God wants to do in us during Lent.
A Few Thoughts
- Make sure we are in the right posture with God. God created us from dust and then blew the breath of life into our bodies with His own breath. We are utterly dependent on Him for our life.
- Listen well to the Spirit’s leading. During Lent, approach God with open hands, heart, and mind as to what God is calling you to confess, or what He wants to change in you.
- Try a spiritual discipline. One such practice, perfect for Lent is called Examen. It’s designed to be done in the evening, perhaps with a journal if you desire. Here’s a simplified explanation.
5 Traditional Steps to Examen
- Gratitude: Recall the blessings of the day and thank God.
- Review: Recall the events of the day and notice where you felt God’s presence and where you resisted opportunities to grow in love.
- Sorrow: Recall anything for which you are sorry.
- Forgiveness: Ask for God’s forgiveness and/or healing if needed.
- Grace: Ask God for the grace you need for the next day or for your life in general.
Through the next few weeks, spend time with God as you make room for the joy and blessing of Easter. If you’d like to draw even closer to God, see our new 14-day study called be loved, Beloved.
On this day of reflection and sorrow, God does not leave us without hope from ashes and dust we have hope because of our wonderful beautiful Savior. Amen.