On this first day of Lent I so enjoyed the Ash Wednesday service at church. It is a solemn service, a quiet service, a time for personal spiritual reflection and a time to open yourself to the leading of God as to what he would have you do or to sacrifice that is special for the season of Lent. I am trying to be more open to experiencing a transforming practise that can radiate into my life come the celebration of the Resurrection 40 days from now.
I came away from the Eucharist very conscious of the sign of the cross in ashes etched across my forehead as I left the church. It made me feel truly "set apart" for some reason. It does every year. It makes me feel sad when I get ready for bed at night and have to wash it off. No doubt I looked like all kinds of nut case when I went into the dental office afterward to deliver my insurance forms, but that didn't matter to me.
There is something about that outward sign, that marking, that makes me want to tell everyone I see about Jesus. I want them to ask me what the ashes on my forehead are all about and often people do because they can't believe adult persons would knowingly and willingly wander around the city with ashen crosses right there on their foreheads in plain sight.
People in our culture mark themselves with all manner of things: tattoos, piercings, colour streaked hair, all very fancy and sometimes remarkably lovely. But I am just as proud of my simple ashen smear. Not only am I marked, I am marked as belonging to someone...a very special someone...God in Christ.
Nothing is more special to me than that.