Ash Wednesday

We are not Catholic.

I feel like I should say that up front because it sets the context for just how unique the experience was.

Being brought up as a Protestant, this day was not even a blip on my radar. Sure, I noticed the ashes on people each year, at the mall, at the grocery store. It always looked very strange to me. I remember being tempted to alert one woman that she had some dirt on her forehead. Thankfully, I did not, as I was reminded that evening of  the significance while watching the news.

Last year was our family’s first experience with the ashes, as our new church community (with Lutheran roots interestingly enough) invited everyone to the front on the Sunday morning before the week of Ash Wednesday so that they could have the sign of the cross marked on their foreheads. I passed on that, as it felt very foreign and honestly, a little uncomfortable for me. So our family stayed seated instead. At home, Julia asked some questions about it, and I did my best to answer them for her, although I was out of my element based on my lack of experience in that area. And then we moved on. Nothing else was said about it.

Until this past Wednesday. Ash Wednesday.

Julia approached me as I was getting dressed for the day. ”Mom, I want you to put ashes on my forehead today for Ash Wednesday.”


I was taken by surprise. But I was open to discussing it with her. After all, I had been ordained a decade ago as I took on a ministerial role at the Bering Drive church of Christ. Surely I was qualified to “ash her up”.

“Why do you want to do that, J?” I asked. I don’t know what I was expecting her to say. But I was shocked by the pure spiritual maturity of her answer.

“I want kids to ask me about it at school so that I can tell them about Jesus – how he died for our sins and was raised back to life.”

Ta-da. That’s the faith we’ve been instilling in her since she was born. And now, at nearly ten years old, she was owning her faith. Even being prompted by her own conscience and conviction to want to share it with others. I was stunned. Overwhelmingly proud and stunned.

“Well, Julia, I cannot think of a better reason. Let’s do it.”

I had no ash on hand. But I did have a candle that had recently burned. The wick was quite fat with the remnants of its past burning. I ran my finger and thumb up the wick. Then I faced my little missionary and began to draw the symbol of the cross on her forehead. I had no clue what the liturgy would be for such an occasion, so I made up my own.

“Julia, as I draw this cross on your head, we remember Jesus’ great love for us and his sacrifice. You are God’s child and you are loved by him.”

She smiled and seemed quite content with our impromptu service.

Then we went back to the kitchen and ate cereal.

As I dropped her off at the school and watched her walk confidently through the doors, I marveled at this child. She is so much braver than I was at that age. I was painfully self-conscious of being different from the crowd. She has always been confident. Confident and very strong-willed. There are moments of great struggle when you have a child with these traits. However, this was the beautiful side – the fruit of those sometimes-challenging traits. As she disappeared from my sight, I said a silent prayer for her, thanking God for her courageous faith.

And I smiled.

Category: Uncategorized | 3 comments

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