My first Ash Wednesday experience came via drive-thru. God bless the Presbyterians.
It had been a long week. My nephew and I had gone to fill a prescription. I had hoped to participated in an Ash Wednesday service this year, but circumstances had made it impossible. Winding back through downtown we passed by a local Presbyterian church. They had a tent set up outside manned by two elders administering ashes for Ash Wednesday. I was grateful for their creativity and pulled in. To hear the words as the ashes were applied to our foreheads, “from dust we were formed and to dust we shall return” was humbling. My wife had recently fallen and fractured a vertebra in her back, leaving her unable to get out of bed or move around on her own. She was in constant pain, and two overnight trips to the ER hadn’t seemed to help. Add to that my two-year old and I passing a nasty stomach virus back and forth between us and our family was spent. We had gone from a normal active life to scratching to get through each day. Mankind is fragile indeed.
Lent is a time to remember our fragility, to own the fact that we are mere seconds away from being sick, injured, or panicked. We accept that even though we feel strong enough to do everything, we can quickly become so weak that we are unable to do anything. These thoughts can drive us to God. They humble us so that we can become willing to receive mercy and care from Him. For my family, that care came through our church family and friends. They rallied to bring meals, cards, and calls. We were grateful for their generosity. We are generally more comfortable on the giving end of things, but sickness and injuries had reminded us that we all need to receive from time to time.
Thoughts of our fragility are hard to take, and we are not called to carry them every day. To obsess constantly over our fragile bodies and delicate minds would create anxiety and paralyze us emotionally. Lent is a time of introspection, but that time is limited. We must remember that the fragility of the crucifixion gives way to the joy of Easter. Yes we are fragile, but our needs are met by a loving and giving Savior. He does not look down on our weakness, but joyfully gives. Our fragility is a means of receiving good things from God. Jesus once taught his disciples, “those who are well have no need of a physician.” (Mark 2:17) Likewise, those who are always strong have no need of the care and mercy God has to offer. So, we embrace our fragility not in despair, but in hope. In hope that in our weakness, God is strong, and that as we regain our strength we can use it for the benefit of others.