I’m reflecting amongst the many smiles and somber and serious faces out in the wind today, during our church’s Ashes To-Go. Along with the inquiries, the sincerest gratitude of strangers and friends, and the tears, there is the feeling of humility upon imposing the ashes. Honoring their own beliefs by blessing them symbolically, is a humbling experience. It poignantly lends the opportunity to truly gaze into the eyes of another’s desire to please God. Our offering of imposing ashes takes my breath away and still there are opportunities that also allowed me this year, some measure of humor. Here are but a few quotes/scenarios I remembered from today.
"Thank you I was so afraid I would miss receiving ashes this year!"
“No thank you, I’m not Catholic,” as she waved me off with the back of her hand. “Neither am I,” I replied. “Ok then, do it!”
“God bless all of you out here and your church for doing this for all us busy people.”
A man wanted to be blessed with ashes but didn’t want to delay traffic while stopped at the red light on our busy corner. I had just blessed his wife on the passenger side so he twisted his body from the driver’s seat with his head upside down on her lap as I imposed ashes on his forehead. Maybe not as reverent as others, but his desire was not lost on me.
“Oh thank God y’all are here again this year, I have to work late and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it to church tonight,” said the workman sitting in his truck while doffing his hard hat.
“What are you doing? Is it free?” “Yes,” I said. “Oh wait, are you talking about that black cross on your forehead, do I have to have that?” “No, if you do not want me to. May I pray a blessing for you though?” “YES, please,” he said. “I need all the prayers I can get!”
“Can you bless my child too, please?”
My lips and tongue numb from the cold wind, I bungled my blessing to an old bible study classmate. She hugged me and said she’d offered ashes in previous years. We both had tears of remembrance for our holy years together and for not seeing each other in a while, but more importantly for shared faith between friends. The hug, the knowing embrace, the sacred times we have shared together, along with my own humility, made for yet another rich blessing.
“This is such a wonderful thing your church does, thank you.”
Yes. It. Is.
All who wanted to receive, all who stopped in the midst of their busy day, all who wanted to know about us, all who blessed us - as we blessed them. This year’s Ashes to Go began yet another Lenten season for me, starting off with the kind faces of strangers that reminded me, as I reminded them, about why we share this opportunity together.
Holiness, humbleness, with just a touch of humor sprinkled in.
Lent for me is indeed a sacred time. Thanks be to God.