Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

Ash Wednesday did not get off the best start this morning. For whatever reason, the bus never picked up Noah and Olivia for school, so I had to dash out to get them there in time and still get home and get ready for the school Mass less than 30 minutes later. Of course there was school bus traffic at that hour, and what should have taken a total of 10 minutes took much longer. I returned home with just enough time to finish getting ready and jump right back in the car. I was frazzled and frustrated and grumbling something along the lines of "great way to begin Lent."

I'm easily frustrated, very impatient, and as I moaned and groaned this morning it occurred to me that the morning's annoyances were really not that big of a deal. And yet I was willing to allow it to "ruin" my Ash Wednesday and cast a shadow over the Lenten season before it even had a chance to begin. How ridiculous is that? Thankfully, I realized in that moment that I needed to refocus my attention on the spiritual significance of the day and not worry so much about the minor details. That, for me, would be the greatest challenge this Lent -- to let go of the whining and complaining about the "small stuff," to remember how blessed I am even when the bus goes missing or the computer printer is holding one of my jobs hostage inside or the dinner is burning. That's much bigger sacrifice for me than giving up sweets and snacking in between meals, which is my usual thing.

At Mass, as I approached the front of church for my ashes, I was hoping, as I always do, that I would receive mine with the traditional line: "Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return." I just love that reminder. But instead, as my pastor marked my forehead and said, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel," I knew that that was precisely what I needed to hear this morning. My mortality is not really an issue for me, not something I fear or struggle with. Sin, however, is another story. And so, as I walked back to my seat and pondered those words, I wrestled with the idea that in addition to my usual Lenten sacrifices, I really do need to make a concerted effort to give up some of my mega-frustration with things that aren't worth the angst and effort. I don't have any illusions that I can shed myself of that bad habit even in 40 days, but being aware of it in the first place in a good starting point, I think.

I hope your Ash Wednesday is off to a good start, even if you hit traffic on your commute or the alarm didn't go off or you spilled something on your shirt at breakfast. Because this day, this season, isn't about everything going according to plan. It is about surrendering to God's plan and giving up our desire to be in control.


Anonymous said...

I found this blog post while trying to find the scripture for "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." I have recently decided to leave the Catholic church for my own personal reasons, and this year is the first in 22 years of my life that I did not go "get my ashes." Feeling a little guilty and saddened, I wanted to remember the verse that I've heard so many times.
I, too, have been struggling with patience. Just last week I was stuck in red lights and had a frustrating time trying to get through a line at the grocery store. Once I finally got home I exclaimed to my husband that, "the good Lord is really testing my patience today." And he was.
Your story especially moved me to write a comment. As a child, I was always taught to give something up for lent. While I'm no longer attending the Catholic church, I still believe it's important to make some type of change during this season. After reading your post, it hit me--don't give something up this lenten season, but instead practice patience and remember what it's all about.
Thank you so much for your inspiration and for causing that light bulb to go on in my head!

Mary DeTurris Poust said...

Thank you so much for writing. I'm so glad my words could help in any way at all. I know sometimes this life can be very hard. I hope you'll come back and check the blog from time to time. I often write about my own spiritual struggles as I try to deepen my prayer life and find my path. Here is one link that I thought you might like:

If you scroll through my subjects on the side, you might find other subjects that interest you. If you ever want to "talk" more, please feel free to email me privately. Peace,

Michele B. said...

I've been out of the loop for a couple weeks and haven't had the chance to read your posts. I just read yesterday's Ash Wednesday Post and it brought me to tears. What an eloquent way to usher us readers into this season of Lent. Thank you for your gift of writing and thank you for sharing it with us. I pray that our Lord deepens your trust in him as you strive to work on patience. Abundant blessings, Mary.

Sharon said...

My Ash Wednesday started my Lenten journey with much fuss too! I will write about it on my

Here is too hoping your Lenten journey is filled with peace!