Returning to dust

Image by Image by HG-Fotografie from Pixabay

Today is Ash Wednesday with its ashes and its reminder to “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent, a time of prayer, repentance, and inner self searching.

I didn’t discover the Lenten season until after I was an adult because it was not a part of my childhood religious tradition, but it’s a favorite for me.

For me, it’s a season to communally look at the brokenness in our personal and corporate lives, a season for looking squarely at our shadows and the many ways that we (personally and collectively) contribute to injustice in this world.

It’s also a reminder that death comes for all of us—not just in the ultimate death that we all must face sooner or later, but also the many little deaths along the way as deal with the painful loss of relationships, loved ones, dreams, physical abilities, jobs, possessions, situations, beliefs, and other things we treasure.

In a busy world that values exterior signs of success and happiness at all costs, a season that focuses on stripping away our distractions to look underneath at our interior realities of brokenness, loss, injustice, and death is a welcome time of reorientation to the things that truly matter.

The best part is that this season isn’t permanent. It leads to Easter when we celebrate resurrection. This season of sitting with our own and with the world’s brokenness culminates with a celebration of the ultimate healing.

Whether you formally observe Ash Wednesday and Lent as a part of your religious tradition or not, we all face Lenten-like seasons when our lives get stripped bare of all of the external trappings by loss or trauma to leave us sitting in the ashes of the lives we had known.

We have no choice about when those seasons will come to visit or what form they might take. Like death, they come crashing into our lives on their own schedule without warning and without our permission.

I like to think of Ash Wednesday and Lent as my way of practicing for those times in my own life. The more I learn to sit with my shadows and brokenness in times of my own choosing, the better equipped I am to face those seasons when they get thrown at me without my choice.

The more I practice living into the reality that healing and resurrection come again and again after seasons of brokenness and death, the more I am able to hold onto that hope when facing the times when I find my life in ashes all around me.

This season of remembering that I (and all that I have and cling to) will return to dust reminds me to hold onto things a little more loosely and to better appreciate them while they are here.

These Lenten seasons of practice have borne and continue to bear rich fruit in my life and my ability to face life’s challenges and broken places, and I treasure them for that.

My wish for you—whether Lent is a part of your tradition or not—is that the inspiration of the art of kintsugi can help you find your own way through the Lenten-like seasons of ashes and brokenness that come your way with the hope-filled beacon of healing and resurrection lighting your way forward into the new life you build out of those ashes.

Many blessings on your Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season ahead!

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