…And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
And some men make no moan:
But God’s eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone.
~Oscar Wilde, The Ballad Of Reading Gaol
It snuck up on me. This day that marks the beginning of the Lenten Season. I wonder sometimes if I ever really pay attention to important things. How important can ashes be anyway? They are something to clean out. Something left behind. A remnant of something that once was.
As a Youthworker, I wonder how often I miss important things because they seem like ashes to me? That kid who hasn’t shown up in a couple weeks. That time I used to have to listen for God. That relationship that I didn’t work on enough. That camp that I used to volunteer at. That mission project that nobody else wanted to do anymore.
Ashes. From dust we have come and to dust we shall return. One day to remember this. One day that starts a journey for a season of lent. Ashes. Today.
On my shelf at home, I have three sets of ashes. Soon they will be part of our historic family cemetery in east Texas. One box contains the ashes of my father, another the ashes of my brother. My mother’s ashes were added to the shelf just last year. Yet, I can not treat these ashes as though they have no meaning. I know they remind me of important things. Family. Life. Love. Conflict. Addiction. Redemption.
Maybe on this one day I can remember that even the most broken relationship in the church is redeemable. Maybe that youth is waiting for me to reach out. Maybe that project can be restarted. Maybe that camp has new volunteers that do a much better job. Maybe I am simply as important as ashes. Ashes that matter. Ashes given form by God. From dust we have come and to dust we shall return.
I wonder if the thing that ultimately breaks my heart of stone is simply seeing the value of ashes. All ashes. They were once a part of something grand. Something amazing. Something valuable. And maybe just maybe my stone heart can understand that. And if I could grasp that just for a moment, maybe this journey of Lent holds a deeper meaning than I ever imagined. Maybe there is something beyond the ashes. Maybe there is something better than a heart of stone.