Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Now I know for many of us, particularly those of us who grew up in Southern evangelical churches, we’ve struggled with Ash Wednesday. Isn’t that the Catholic’s thing? I remember having these thoughts growing up and even the first time I was introduced to the practice of Lent and Ash Wednesday. I even remember a few years back when I got to explain Ash Wednesday to my then 9-year-old so that he began to understand it a bit more. I had come home in the middle of the day and forgotten that I had already been ashed. I noticed my son staring at me strangely and then he asked, “What’s on your head?” Well the conversation proceeded as I explained to Jonas the significance of what Ash Wednesday meant and how we commemorate this season and then I asked him, “Do you think you would get ashes?” His reply, “Yes.” “Well why would you want to?” “Because I love Jesus and I want other people to know it.”
That’s the kind of response that melts a father’s heart. And I had never really thought about the significance of Ash Wednesday as an outward expression of solidarity with other Christ followers until that day. But what a profound image. Here we are as Christians, for the most part blending in every day of the year and then all of a sudden we are walking around with smudged crosses on our forehead and saying to the world our allegiance lies elsewhere. It reminds me of the verse from 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” We are meant to leave a mark, to spread an aroma, to have an impact on the world around us everywhere we go.
The other day I had a friend tweet out a post about her friends who have adopted. It went a little like this, “Shout-out to my friends who have adopted kids but don’t brag all over the place about how God used them to save their kids out of whatever life they would have had. Like, they’re just normal families with kids who happen to not look like them.” I actually responded in kind saying, “Wait, we can brag about how our kids saved us by opening up our eyes to a better way of seeing the world…oh that’s not what you meant.” I began to think about what my life would be like if Jonas were not my son. It’s crazy to think about how we left marks on each others lives because of a decision long ago. I look at this sweet, caring almost teen and I am so thankful for the mark he is leaving on the world around him. I am so thankful for the mark he is leaving on my life and how just being himself has helped me to see the world differently. And I think Jesus is thankful for the mark he is leaving as well. Can the same be said of us? Are we leaving a mark that points back to Christ on the world around us? Or are we just content to continue to blend in? May this Lenten season become a time for you to examine your life, your mark and see if you truly leave the mark, the aroma of Christ wherever you go.