By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. – Genesis 3:19
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. The occasion is marked, literally, with ashes on the forehead and the words “you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
It is the very same reminder that God gave to the man and the woman in the garden after their disobedience. They chose to break communion with their Creator and instead followed the allure of being like God.
But they weren’t like God, a fact they were deceived into forgetting; the man and woman were a part of the creation. Above every other created thing, yet less than God.
So, rather than the deathless existence for which they were intended, God made their life a fight against the ground that would provide their food, a reminder of the dust to which they would now return.
Just like the first man and woman, we break the communion with God that the death and resurrection of Christ enables, and attempt to pursue wholeness apart from our Creator.
We get deceived that this is possible, and attempt to grasp onto a semblance of value the identity we create provides.
We do what is right in our own eyes. Selfishly. Rebelliously.
The ashes on our foreheads today remind us that it is not our eyes that determine what is right.
We are not God. It is appointed that all men and women will return to dust.
As much as we want to control our own bodies, circumstances, and destinies, authority does not lay within us, but in the hands of a loving heavenly Father.
During the 40 days of lent, we tend to give something up. The intent is self-examination, and letting go of what the false self is grasping onto for security, control or affirmation. (see a previous post on Lent)
Rather than this sacrifice being something we boast in (I gave up chocolate for 40 whole days!) or providing proof of our righteousness, it is a season of remembering that our entire life is to be surrendered to God in Jesus Christ.
We are dust, and to dust we will return.