For I am Dust…

For I am Dust… February 26, 2020

I walked into the cathedral just after 12 o’clock today. The silence of the room felt almost deafening, especially when my ears are used to so much noise, when I fail to center myself in quiet.

As my knees found their place on the worn and padded velvet kneeler, my hands draped over the back of the pew in front of me. Is it grace that no one is sitting in front of me? 

Maybe it is. Maybe it was.

When the clergy walked in to silence, I felt my eyes dart around the room – to the stained-glass windows and the deep recesses of the vaulted ceiling. To the bricks and the tall wooden beams and the ornate number plates pressed into the ends of the long wooden benches.

As soon as the service began, I felt my racing heart. I don’t want to be here. I want to be here. After all, sometimes I want to run away from the things I don’t understand, from those things that will cause me pain. And sometimes I feel like I’m still in recovery from (that which I’ve labeled) the programmatic church.

It’s like I feel like I deserve some sort of mood music to start things off. There should be a little bit of snap and jazz for Jesus, a trite commercial on the big screen that first makes me laugh and then centers me in a place of receiving the gifts of God.

But the beauty of this tradition is that no explanation is needed.

The words and the silence and the prayers speak for themselves; the kneeling and the standing, the walking forward to the altar and back to the pew, one time and then again, beg me sit and be without added incentives, without feeling like I need to be entertained in the first place.

I suppose this is where the tension exists: the part of me that desperately wants to be in this space, with this God, this Mystery, this Unknown, is also scared to feel those unknown parts of faith.

After all, I’m aware of today’s invitation.

For years, my best friend gushed over the beauty of the Lenten season: Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week and Good Friday, to name a few. She relished in it all, while I sat there on the outside peeking in. Why would I willingly enter into a season of bright sadness when we Christians get to glory in our stamping as Resurrection People? Why would I willingly subject myself to “the sadness of my exile, of the waste I have made of my life; the brightness of God’s presence and forgiveness, the joy of the recovered desire for God, the peace of the recovered home”?

But then – now, today – the invitation waned. And two hours before the high noon service began, I rearranged my schedule so I could spend the lunch hour with a gaggle of holy strangers, listening to the haunting words on repeat, again, again.

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. 

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. 

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. 

Because it’s in this place that I sit now, wanting to go deeper into the parts I often run from, wanting to confess and lament, wanting to think about and chew over and dwell on the things I don’t always want to make a part of my life.

For I am dust, and to dust I shall return.  

Is it not the same for you?

So, what is Ash Wednesday to you? And did the manny at martial arts class just ask you if you’d changed a tire recently, because of the now-smeared sign of the cross on your forehead? 

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