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» Ash Wednesday as a Song of Ascent (based on Psalm 130) #JourneyLent
I fumbled for my phone,
trying to turn off the alarm. I quickly realized though that it wasn’t my usual alarm, but a phone call. It was still early in the
morning, and the Caller ID read “Mom.”I knew why she must be calling.
“Hey Mom.” “Hi son... He’s gone.”
It was Ash Wednesday of
2009, and my family’s day was starting out with death. My
stepfather had just succumbed to lymphoma.
I was a pastor. So
while packing for the trip to Louisiana, I also made a few calls to make sure
everything was covered for our Ash Wednesday liturgy that evening.
Several hours later, I
was hugging and crying with my mother.
I remember trying to
pick a coffin. I remember going through pictures for a slideshow. I remember
telling person after person “Actually, I’ve given up sweets for
bombarded the house with banana pudding, German chocolate cake, and four layer
And I remember getting
the phone call that evening that made the day even worse.
One of the parishioners
at the church I helped pastor, a dear friend who was actually supposed to have
read scripture in our liturgy that night, found out her sister had died
tragically right before the service.
For the next few days,
death was all around.
Visitation. A graveside service. And besides dealing with all that comes with a
death in the family, the whole time I also felt so removed from my community in
Austin. I wished there was a way I could care for and mourn with my mother, and
also care for and mourn with my friend.
Instead, I felt distant
in both regards. I felt... cut off.
I guess death does
“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?”
When loss comes, there
are many different responses we can have. And they’re
all valid. But mine and my communities’crying out to God was unfolding along with Lent. So our
suffering happened to be given readily available theological language and
practices that we could grab onto.For it was clear that the world, and everyone in it, was... broken.
constantly hurting each other, and ourselves, and creation - all of which in
turn hurts God. So we need, all of creation needs, a savior. We’re reminded of that each Lent, as we journey with Jesus toward
“But with you there is forgiveness…”
Over time, I’ve grown to love Ash Wednesday. Many find it dark, or
depressing. But there’s a good deal of hope present too. Yes, we’re again confronted today with our own mortality - with the
reminder that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. However, we’re to let that realization then move us on into the rest of Lent
For remember, that God
can do pretty amazing things with dust. We read in Genesis that “the
LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
And along with
creating, God is also always re-creating. So ash, or dust, when worked back
down into the ground, plays a role in new life. And the burnt ashes of what had
been becomes the soil for the green of what can be.
Thanks be to God.
During this Lenten
season, what do you need to cry out to God for?
What do you need to
What do you need to
forgive, or be forgiven of?
Sam Myrick grew up in
Louisiana, went to college in Arkansas, met his wife in Colorado, and now lives
in Texas. He was a pastor for ten years. Now he hangs out with his wife and
kids, tries to be a good friend, sells windows and doors, and writes when he can
at sammyrick.com. You can follow him on Twitter @sam_myrick or on Facebook at facebook.com/thestoryofsam