Smears of Messiness: Ash Wednesday, Ministering, Mothering, and Loving

minister mother

Tonight we honor Ash Wednesday.

Big black streaks will be smeared across the foreheads of my church folks in the shape of a cross. We will whisper words with each smear: remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

The streaks of ash are messy and unkempt to remind us of the physical, human side of our faith.

Ashes are scattered when we grieve. Ashes cover the heads of those who mourn like Job and Tamar.

Ashes remind us to cry out to God in our mess- like the Prophet Jeremiah and the prophet Daniel.

On all other days of the year- our churches are cleaner, more presentable. With our Sunday-best clothes, or smiling faces over coffee hour, or Good News messages that leave little room for the mess, the grief, the smears…

But life isn’t tidy or Sunday-best.

We all could use a few ashes from the church: to make room for our grief, our mess, our streaked and smeared human form.

On Ash Wednesday, we are humbled with the reminder: we are dust.

Motherhood is also humbling. The daily tasks of diapers and runny noses and nursing are tactile and raw and real. I am used to the mess. My sweet son needs to cry on my shoulder- often smearing tears and snot into my hair. He turns to me when he’s sick and the stains on my clothes tell the whole story.

Loving one another comes with mess: spit-up on the clean sheets, cheerios covering the carpet, crumbs in grandpa’s beard, lipstick stains from mom’s exuberance…

This is the truth for all of us- beyond our Sunday-best. The sweetest parts of life often come with smears, with mess, with streaks that stain our physical lives and remind us that we are living, knee deep in this chaotic, beautiful world.

Ash Wednesday is an important day.

Let the ashes smear on your forehead.

Let the church meet you with messiness.

Let your community come together all at once to say: we are dust and ashes and crumbs and lipstick stains- and that is the beautiful part of our human lives.

Dust is holy.

And God is present in the dust and crumbs. Amen.




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