Our culture hides death. I’m not sure why. Maybe we’re uncomfortable with expressing the pain or facing our own mortality. Or maybe it simply forces us to recognize we’re not in control. But this season gives us a stark reminder with every ash-marked forehead. Ash is a picture of our mortality, our physical destination. Cultures going back through ancient times have covered themselves in ash as a sign of mourning.
But it is also a picture of repentance. Recall the prophets of old, repenting in sackcloth and ash; the grieving of sin as forgiveness is sought. If my sin doesn’t cause my heart to ache, am I willing to turn my back on it completely?
There is a price that was paid for my sin. The Lord endured a brutal and painful death on my behalf. I joyfully live in the reality of the resurrection, but I need to remember the cross. Jesus conquered sin and death, but it required the crucifixion.
The ashes are a vivid reminder of the death that would await us without the cross. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is a tradition that calls to mind the depravity and gravity of our sin. But this brokenness leads to repentance if we turn and reach for the cross, which is the only remedy.
My heart yearns for the promised fulfillment of resurrected Life. This is a season that draws my eye to my desperate need. And that makes the Hope ever sweeter.
He raises up the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with prince and inherit a seat of honor. I Samuel 2:8