"Remember, from dust you came and to dust you shall return."
To remind people that they will die is a holy thing indeed. A holy privilege.
But this Ash Wednesday comes with some extra symbolism for me...for it marks the day before my birthday. It is a strange thing to remember death the day before you celebrate your birth. Yet this year it seems very appropriate.
See, tomorrow I embark on a year-long journey/experiment. I'm not physically going anywhere [at least not anywhere planned] but emotionally and spiritually I am preparing myself for a bumpy ride. This next year I am going to undertake what I am calling a Courage Project - 12 months of Living Courageously.
And so to begin this journey with the reminder that life is temporary, I am mortal, and in the end I will return to the ground from which I came...it makes Jesus' words stand out to me in a whole new way:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" [Mark 8v34-36]
To find my life, my truest deepest richest life, means I have to let go of all the ways I choose to live out of safety and comfort. To really live means that I have to die first. So it seems fitting that before I step into this new endeavor of living with courage instead of fear I should be reminded that this life comes to an end, our days are numbered, and if I want to live there is no time like the present to jump into what that means.
On the eve of my 34th birthday I am grateful for the reminder that I will die...hopefully not soon, but eventually. And too often I am so afraid of looking foolish, being humiliated, experiencing rejection, being excluded that instead of choosing to live I simply choose to get by unscathed. But this is not living my friends - to live means to risk. To live we must first embrace death - because it is only knowing that this adventure of life will come to an end that we can risk trying to get as much out of it as possible before we we return to the dust from which we came.
Tomorrow I begin a journey of losing my life so that I might find what true life is. Today I reflect that life is a precious gift that is fragile, temporary, and passing.
Today I remember that from dust I came, and to dust I will return...so I better get on with the practice of living while I still can.