Growing up Baptist we didn't do the ash thing for Ash Wednesday. It was usually another Wednesday spent at church, perhaps with an extra Easterish song thrown in. These last few years our church has been joining up with an Anglican church to do Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service. For me it's been a chance to sit up straight in the pew and take in the beauty of prepared words, robes, candles and of course, the ashes.
This year our daughter was finally old enough to realize we had them on our heads. After we picked her up from child care she immediately pointed: What's that? Ash. I tell her. Why?? She starts to look around and then asks: Does everyone have... ashes? Yes. It reminds of Jesus.
When we get in the car I ask my husband if that was the right answer. I'm sort of in that place lately, where it seems I can't get anything right and it's a wee bit frustrating.
When we make it home I realize I never dug out my nice clothes for picture day at work, don't ask, and I decide it would be better to just go by some new ones. I take the girl child with me, and wonder if people are going to scowl at me for having a small child out late. I start defending myself. I see about four other people with children younger or the same age. Oh good. There's a whole mess of people who don't believe in 8 o'clock bed times for children.
I shop like a man, for once, with a point. Decisive and Quick. Once I have a few workable outfits I go to the mirror to hold my clothes up and there it is. Stark as daylight bursting through a night. An ash cross on my forehead. I jump back, and of course, my thought was: oh my I have dirty ash all over my head in a store. With a child. Late at night. I must look like trash.
As soon as I thought it, I felt horrid. Surely I was missing the point somewhere. For I am anything but trash.
I think it may take a few more years of ash to break down this need to please everyone else. To be perfect, or my silly version of being perfect, and to do it all on my own. Maybe, 'to remind us of Jesus' is the wrong answer. Or the four-year-old answer. But, it's where I'm at now. To, remind us, of Jesus.