“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.”
~ Psalm 51: 10-12
It is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a 40-day journey to the cross; a time of awakening to the temporal nature of this life on earth and to the life everlasting. For me, this is a day for reflection on my mortality and my brokenness, and for grieving my sins. I strive to live a life worthy of the divine love and grace of our heavenly father and yet, I know I miss the mark.
Too often my focus is inward on the things of life that are not going according to my plan. Too often I do not turn the other cheek but hold spite in my heart instead. Too often I take each day “as it comes” and “for what it is” rather than giving thanks for each day that I have. Too often I allow my struggles to overwhelm my spirit and turn me to the darkness of doubt rather than trusting in the ways of our Lord and standing strong with an armor of faith.
As I struggle to understand the purpose of my Dad’s present suffering, watching this once sharp, vibrant man be reduced to a shell of confusion and despondency, I find myself filled with doubt in the plans the Lord has for this faithful man. My heart questions just how merciful this “loving, grace-filled” Lord that I strive to live for is. This brings me to shame as someone who is studying to one day lead others to this same divine, loving, and merciful Lord.
Tonight, symbolic ashes born from the time before our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection will mark my forehead. They will remind me that I am dusty. That like the ashes that stain my skin with the sign of the cross, I will one day be carried away in the wind and fire just as my mother was. They will cause me to ask myself what I am doing with the time that I have, however temporary, here on earth? How will I impact others. When He calls me, am I a willing spirit?
These ashes are also symbolic of the crosses we bear. They are not worn out of shame, but rather, as signs of our acceptance that the struggles we endure are a part of our own journey to the cross. The ashes remind me that my dusty-ness is only temporary – that through my faith in Him, I will one day be made perfect.
In the meantime, our Lord does not want our crosses – our struggles, our burdens, our imperfections – to define us. Rather, it is through those very crosses that our Lord’s grace and abiding love shines through.
Indeed, it was through my greatest struggle, one in which I laying dying to life that I found new life in the Lord. He called me back to Him through my cross and gave me new life.
For I was dying… and He gave me life.
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
~2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Now, He calls me, in all my brokenness, doubts, questions, and human failings to shine His light to others as they journey to Him.
Lead me Lord. My spirit is willing and I will shine your light.