Many people in the world, myself included, woke up this morning and went to a church service celebrating something called Ash Wednesday.
For those who aren't familiar with what Ash Wednesday is all about, it's the first day of lent when we Christians lean into the verse from Genesis, "by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return." This verse reminds us of the curse that is on all creation and specifically humanity. The curse is physical and spiritual death that our ancestors willingly stepped into when choosing to align themselves with darkness so they could grasp immortality and autonomy for themselves instead of aligning themselves with God and his ordered perfect plan for us to attain those things. Humanity bypassed goodness and light for instant gratification, which ultimately brought death to us all.
But that's not the end of the story.
From the same breath that God proclaimed this curse, he also prophesied that there would one day come a man who would destroy the darkness and its grip on us, reversing death and crushing its reign of terror. Ash Wednesday is sitting in this moment of realization that we are dust creatures. We are finite. Our bodies will one day cease to function and will, by either cremation or corrosion, become dust. Pausing in this moment, we realize that we need help. We cannot do this thing on our own. Life is overwhelming and many times we find ourselves being crushed by the very curse that our ancestors ushered into existence long ago. In this moment of darkness, we look to the coming season of Lent.
Lent lasts 40 days which reminds us of the 40 days in the wilderness where Jesus' ministry began. Many times we tend to gloss over this section to get to the good stuff; the miracles, the sermon on the mount, etc. But Ash Wednesday and Lent beg us to linger here and remember that Jesus did what humans couldn't. Instead of doing what the first humans did and seizing autonomy for himself when the satan tempted him (just as he tempted the first humans) Jesus decided that he would remain true to God. Instead of doing what Israel did in their 40 days in the wilderness and refusing to face the Canaanites/trust in God to bring them into the promised land and ending up in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus decided to trust God and face the fear of the journey ahead, thus fulfilling what they could not. When we look at Lent, we see the spiritual struggle that plagues our everyday lives. One that we are not equipt to handle, but one that Jesus crushed on our behalf.
So as we enter into Lent, let's remember that Jesus, who came to earth to undo the curse put on humanity and then ultimately become the sacrifice to end all sacrifices on our behalf, ransoming us from the enemy and atoning the ancient decision of our ancestors that has plagued us all, then conquering death physically and spiritually. Let's remember that Jesus is our hope and it is He who makes us more than dust.