Ashes.

I just have not had time. I know very well there are 24 hours in a day and that we all have 24 hours to choose how to spend, but I have not had time. I wish there were 48 hours in a day right now. Just for awhile. Then I could spend more time over my coffee cup and more time over my words, and maybe I wouldn’t have to rush so dang hard from one job to the next. I ran three red lights this week alone in my rush to get to required destinations.

I hate rushing. Despise it, really.

So the Lenten season is a blatant personal inconvenience. I don’t have time to think about it. As a girl who refuses a denominational label these days, thinks solidly Wesleyan in her theology, but grew up Southern Baptist, I do not observe Lent. I never have. Not that I think anything is wrong with it, but it has never been part of my learned practice, nor my chosen practice. At least not physically.

But I wept on Ash Wednesday this week because I could not think of a single place in this town I no longer know of where I would be accepted to have ashes on my forehead. And I really wanted the ashes. I wanted a reminder that in the midst of the craziness of my right now, God is still God and I am not. I wanted to be a part of believers outwardly proclaiming their belief a mere 48 hours after brave men died for the same thing on a different continent. Because there is nothing like lifting a middle finger to evil when what you really want is to lift a middle finger to the world but you know that that is not the way to go. I wanted to be a part of that collective, to see a kind face, feel a practiced thumb on my forehead, and know my heart has a home. I just wanted the ashes.

And now Lent is here, but I don’t want to give up anything. I want more. I want more time, more sleep, more clean floors, more green grass and fresh air, more space to to be myself. I feel like a self-indulgent little pig, gulping and grasping at anything that looks like the peace I long for. Even if it isn’t. Even if the taste is bad and the smell sour to my thin-skinned heart. I have been eating it anyway and wanting more of it.

That is why I wanted the ashes. I crave simple right now and nothing is more simple than dirt on flesh. I think if I can just remember where I came from, I will remember how to keep going, keep slogging through this muck. I need some dirt to do that, some outward reminder of inward truth. I am ashes. But ashes come only from a fire. And I came from fire, from the One who loves and saves with wild abandon and amazing grace and burns brighter than the sun itself. 

Perhaps Lent will not require a Facebook-acknowledged and other-approved proclamation of what I am physically giving up. What I do or do not do is between me and the Lord. I’ve already missed a few days of Lent observation. I don’t think He minds, really. Perhaps I will only be asked to search deeper in, press in further and tighter, and let go of the glittery rush simply to embrace the remains of the fire and be made more fully aware of the fact that there was, there is, and there will be, a Fire. I am ashes, but I know from what I came.

HANDS HOLDING ASHES