Monday, March 03, 2014
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Once, I thought it was a terrible to mark someone’s forehead with ashes and remind them of what we all want to forget: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
But on Ash Wednesday this is what we do.
We mark our heads and hear again that we are made from the same elements that make up the rest of universe, elements to which we will return when we are done here.
“Remember you are dust.”
It sounds awful. But now in the seventh decade of my life I hear those words as invitation and grace.
They are an invitation to come home, to be real, honest and human again, to quit trying to be something more than a common flesh and blood human being somehow above others. Quit trying to be something I am not and was never intended to be.
The words tell me that I am dust, but that’s not what I hear.
I hear, “Welcome home, David. It’s okay.”
Welcome home. There is no need to be anything other than what you are, a human soul, sometimes frail and weak, other times stronger than you ever thought you could be, sometimes selfish and careless, sometimes competent or even wise, others times inept--and never as together as I appear to be on good days.
The words invite me to embrace my neediness. For I am terribly needy, needing forgiveness, needing encouragement, needing warmth, needing companionship, needing fullness when I feel empty.
And this makes me more or less like you.
And to this, God shrugs and says, “I know. I’ve always known this about you, and it doesn’t matter because I am life and I am love in infinite supply.
“I am warmth when you are cold. I am the fullness for which you ache when your heart is empty. I am your constant companion when the sojourn of life is hard and lonely. I am the arms that catch you when you fall or fall behind.
“But you will never know me. You will never know the warmth I am, the fullness of your heart in mine, the silent company of my presence in your depths. Never.
“Not until you give up trying to be more than a human being, not until you give up denying that you are one bit less needy than you are, not until you mark your head with the ashes and say again, “I need you. I need you like I need my next breath. I need your warmth and joy, your forgiveness and blessing.
And this is what the ashes say, “I need you, Lord.”
And to this, the Holy One says what we most need to hear, “Welcome home.”
Pr. David L. Miller