For you are dust
And to dust you shall return
In some ways these words may seem like a somber and even punitive statement. Perhaps a bitter pronouncement of the imminence of death and mortality. In other ways, it is very possible to find comfort and assurance in these words. For God to say that we are dust means He knows what we are made of, and He knows our destinies.
Ash Wednesday commences the liturgical season of Lent, a time of fasting and repentance, 40 says of living with the reality of our sinfulness and preparing to receive the resurrection. It is a season that asks us to engage in reflection and self-assessment. A time to ask the Spirit to reveal those parts of our hearts and minds that are trapped in darkness, mired in failure and affliction and destruction. No one would ever call Lent a pleasant or comfortable season. It can actually be quite frightening to confront the depths of our own hearts with unflinching honesty. It’s much easier to stay on the surface of what we know and what we can manage. Yet Christ asks more than that because He desires to offer more than shallow platitudes and attractive exteriors.
To experience the freedom of Christ we much first come face to face with our bondage. This is not a pursuit we engage alone, because the human heart is capable of great depravity and suffering. Rather, we ask Christ to shine His light into the dark recesses within us, knowing that we need not fear what He will find there. We have nothing to fear because Christ is unafraid of what will be revealed. There is no past sin or on-going destructive impulses that can shock or surprise the Lord. No extent of failure or inadequacy that can make Him turn away. No depth of wound and sorrow that can confound His ability to bind up and heal. No losing battle with depression and anxiety that He cannot win. Nothing that can separate us from the love of God or cause Him to rescind our adoption as sons and daughters. Nothing to fear.
Lent affords the opportunity to invite the Spirit into our inner unknown, resting in the assurance that God knows what we are made of. Let us repent and turn before our Savior, safe in the knowledge that Christ has already confronted every darkness that lies in the human heart and nailed it to the cross. We can bare everything within us that leads to death and decay, knowing that death will never be the final word and we will be raised to new life with Christ is His resurrection.