Beloved Dust (Thoughts on Ash Wednesday)
Several people told me to watch the show, Ted Lasso, so after much cajoling (because I don’t like swearing and all that), I decided to get over myself and binged watch two seasons in a week with my husband.
I loved so much of the show, and other parts were uncomfortable for this prudish girl, but there was one episode about a funeral that got me thinking about all things Lent and dying and ashes and resurrection.
One of the main characters says this to her partner as they get ready for the event:
[Keeley]: I found this company, and they bury you in a biodegradable sack. So when your body decomposes, it fertilizes the seeds of a fruit tree. That's what I want. Because then you and all the people that love me can eat the fruit from my tree.
I’ve been a little obsessed about this idea, to say the least, for a week. I’ve been talking about it ad nauseam to friends, family, book groups, anyone who will listen. Because ME TOO! I want to be buried in a biodegradable sack for the same reason.
When I was growing up, Ash Wednesday was the day that I saw weird smudges on people’s foreheads and had no idea why, being the conservative evangelical that I was. I finally figured out that it was a “Catholic” thing and it meant people were really sad after Mardi Gras because now they had to “give up” something they loved for the next 40+ days until Easter.
Secretly, I thought it was weird and it gave me one more reason to be glad I was not Catholic. I mean, putting something like that publicly on your face, willingly being sad and giving up coconut almond joy ice cream were not on my #toptenlist.
But recently, as I’ve begun to dive deeper into the mystery of God and some of the practices that help us to lean into reflection and wonder, I’ve taken up the practice of Lent.
So what’s with the ashes on this day? Why dust?
Let’s go back to Ted Lasso and the book of Genesis.
Death has always scared me. The idea that we were made from dust and to dust we will return feels strange and horrible. As in, we are, when push comes to shove, nothing more than dirt.
But Genesis and our friend Keeley turn that on its head just a bit.
God’s Spirit breathes into the dust and gives it life. He breathes into the stuff that we walk on every single day, try to get out of our kids’ jean-knees and don’t think much about. He, in essence, shows us that what looks drab and dead is exactly what sparks beauty and life.
And that’s why I’m stuck on Lent like dust on my dining room table and like the ashes in our wood burning stove.
And why I’m stuck on being put into some kind of pod when I die.
I know my life looks drab and dead at times.
Like nothing good can come from it.
But perhaps what is visible to the naked eye is not true of what’s going on underneath in the sacred, unseen places.
That the drab, seemingly unimportant dirt (even my own decaying flesh that will turn back into dust in that pod I want to be buried in) is where life is being birthed in the hidden places just waiting to spring forth at the right time in all its beauty.
That death is not the end of the story (remember Easter and all that good stuff that we are embarking down a journey to), but that resurrection has the final say.
But there’s even something greater than beauty and life, as wonderful as they are.
God’s Spirit not only breathes life into the dust, He loves the dust. He absolutely, unequivocally and heartily loves the dust and the beautiful us that comes from it.
Two years ago, right at the beginning of Lent, my husband said these words to me that hold me when I get all “Nervous Nelly” about the whole “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” part of this day.
We’ve come from LOVE.
We’re held in LOVE.
We will return to LOVE.
I’m off to get some ashes out of my stove (and as you can see from the picture above, there is a lot of them) to put on my head to remind me of this:
I AM BELOVED DUST.
And so are you.
From my heart to yours,