Did you walk into work yesterday and see a coworker with a smudge on her forehead you wanted desperately to wipe off but didn’t seem to bother her?
Did you come back to find your boss, seated at his desk with a cross on his forehead that wasn’t there before he left for lunch?
If you answered yes or had a similar experience, allow me to explain. Your coworkers have not lost it. They didn’t join a cult on their way to work. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. As I explained the other day, Christians celebrate the season before Easter with a practice of fasting called Lent. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. As a way to focus on why they are fasting, Catholics (and some other denominations as well) hold services throughout the day. As a part of the service, ashes are placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross. In the Bible, ashes are used as a sign of mourning. On Ash Wednesday, the ashes symbolize the mourning of where we went wrong and our repentance and desire to be better examples of Christ’s love.
So here’s my question for those of us without ashes on our heads…
Could you do it?
If you walked into the office would people be shocked to learn you even know where a church is?
Would you be a hypocrite with a symbol of God for all to see at a football game? in traffic? with your family? on the golf course?
And here’s my question for those with…
Did you leave it there all day?
Did you try to cover it up or downplay its significance?
Did you act any differently with that mark than you do at other times?
Here’s my reason for asking:
There’s a Catholic church on the corner on the way to Brynna’s school. I passed that corner 4 times yesterday and each time there were droves of people coming out after the ending of a mass. Each person had an ashen cross on their heads. Each was heading back to his/her respective life. And I couldn’t help but wonder what the rest of the day would be like for them. I couldn’t help but think about the rest of my day and what it would be like if everywhere I went people immediately knew what I believe.
Because that’s supposed to be every day.
But is it?
Did you receive ashes yesterday? Did it change anything about the way you spoke or acted?
If you were marked with a symbol of your beliefs would your walk match your talk?
Those ashes have the ability to be an ugly display to the world that we say one thing but do another. Or they can be a beautiful representation of a heart that’s not perfect, never will be but loves people like Jesus does.
I hope they weren’t just dark smudges.
I hope they changed someone.
And more than anything, I hope that when Jesus looks at me, He sees – not on my head but in my heart – beautiful ashes.