Note: This post originally was published on my personal blog.
Last Wednesday, as I was getting ready for bed, I looked at myself in the mirror...as I was washing off my cross of ashes that I had gotten earlier in the evening.
This year was the first year I paused mid wash, to look at my forehead, and I was struck off guard by what I was looking at. My face wash is from Lush and it is called Dark Angels...it's a face wash whose major ingredient is ground charcoal. I swear by it for keeping my face clean, but it is kind of a gross black paste that is rather messy.
And here I was, washing off my cross made of palm ashes with the ashes of some unknown tree that gave its life for my face wash.
As I looked at myself, there was no distinguishing between where the palm ash ended and the face wash began, it was all smeared together on my forehead. In one moment, the sign of my mortality mixed with the refreshing promise of cleansing...all in one.
And as I looked at what I had created...a mix of dirt and clean, of death and new life, of the visible and invisible cross on my forehead...I was overwhelmed with emotions...considering that maybe all of life is like my forehead. We are sinners and saints, yes. But Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, and simultaneously reminds us of the cross of Christ which claims us at baptism and promises life eternal in the Kingdom of God. We are dead in sin...we confess it weekly, yet we are forgiven and free...reminded weekly.
Living in this all encompassing life is beautiful...and maybe it's the reminder I needed going into Lent this year. I admit I wasn't as into Lent this year as I was Advent (normally it's reversed...I like Lent more...) but as I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought about how daily, in an effort to clean my face, I spread ashes on it...and so thus...my Lenten discipline: Being mindful of my face wash...and being mindful of the cross on my forehead.