“For He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14 ESV)
Ash Wednesday is a little weird as far as Christian observances go. Think about it: For Advent, you have nice little calendars with either a Bible verse or a piece of candy. Christmas: a feast and gifts. For Easter, you have empty tombs and gift-filled plastic eggs. But for the start of Lent, you get some ashes, usually smeared on your forehead. Oh boy, sign me up!
The purpose of Ash Wednesday isn’t to get rid of last year’s palm branches from Palm Sunday (although that’s traditionally the source of the ashes), but to remind us of something essential in the Christian walk: This life is temporary.
If you’ve ever been to a traditional Christian burial service, you’ve heard the phrase “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” This harkens back to Genesis 2:7 when God created mankind: “Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into his nostrils, the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” After sin entered into creation and Adam & Eve were both disobedient, God said this to the man:
“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to the dust you shall return.”(Genesis 3:19 ESV)
Lent is about repentance and examining our lives. The best way to begin this 40-day journey is to remember that we are but dust. Life is short. I see that every day by working in the “death and dying industry”. While it is true that the vast majority of the deceased who use our funeral home are elderly, we are almost daily reminded of the brevity of life. When we realize how brief and fragile life is, it gives us a great sense of the awesomeness of God. He who is eternal, unchanging, all-knowing, and ever-present.
Psalm 103:14-16 says, “For He [The Lord] knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” But look at the first part of verse 17: “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,“
Today, friend, remember that you are but dust. Yet, the Lord, his compassion and steadfast love endures forever.