Practicing Awareness: An Ash Wednesday Reflection

Our theme for Lent this year is “Practicing Awareness,” and we will begin to explore what this means during our Ash Wednesday service this evening at 7p in the sanctuary.  This will be a short service that will include not only the usual scripture reading, prayer, and singing but also plenty of time for silence and stillness.  We will put ashes on each other’s forehead and say the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.” 

These words are a way of practicing awareness of our own mortality, but they are also a reminder that it is within and through these mortal bodies that we are being blessed by God.  We came from dust and we will someday return to dust, but God continues to do amazing, beautiful, holy things with dust.  During Lent we are called to become aware of what things are leading us toward life and what things are drawing us closer to death.  Some of these things are outside of our control, but this season of self-examination and awareness invites us to be honest with ourselves, with each other, and with God about the ways we are failing to be fully alive, both on a personal level and in our shared life. 

If you’ve been around CMC long enough, you may have heard me talk about why Ash Wednesday is so meaningful for me.  It was 8 years ago after an Ash Wednesday service in Hutchinson, Kansas that I said the words “I’m gay” to someone for the first time.  With ashes smudged across my forehead and tears in my eyes, I bared my soul that night.  I don’t remember if there was something in the service earlier that evening that prompted me to come out that night, but I do remember that the biggest reason I decided it was time was because I had finally become aware that I could not carry that burden alone.  My eyes were being opened to the ways that the shame I carried about my sexuality was leading me only toward death. 

As we learn to practice awareness this Lent, my hope is that we may all become aware of the things that are holding us back from living fully into the new life God continues to call us toward.  And as this awareness grows, may we also have the courage to move toward new life, letting the grace of God do amazing, beautiful, holy things with our dust.