This blog post is part of a series that I began for telling our story. You can read the first post here.

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Next post coming tomorrow.

Last night we had Ash Wednesday worship. I didn’t grow up with the tradition of ashes being placed on foreheads – perhaps it’s a little too much for Nebraska farmers. But once I went to college, I’ve been anointed by soot just about every year. And I spend a moment remembering that I am dust, and to dust I will return. It’s a solemn moment. And then I spend the rest of the service trying to remember not to scratch my forehead…

I think my lack of growing up with this tradition is why I was so struck last night by the children sporting ashen crosses on the brows. A little blond girl with bright eyes and rosy cheeks beamed from ear to ear as she ran back from the altar after prayers. A pair of toddler boys on opposite sides of the sanctuary, one playing with his grandmother and trying to look into her mouth, the other wide-eyed, innocent looking, possibly a bit sleepy with the ashes more in his hair than on his skin. Another little boy in his school uniform, shirt untucked and earnestly kneeling at the front next to his mother. I took in all of these images, and I wanted to cry.

I can see why certain Christian traditions have assigned an “age of accountability.” It’s easy for us to look at children and believe them to be innocent, holy, incapable of sin. We want to believe that sin is only an active thing, not something that is wholly part of our being in this life.

But we are all stained by it, as blackened as the ashes on our heads last night. Every person in that sanctuary came from dust and will return to it. Even the children. It hurts to think about it. No one wants to think about precious, sweet children returning to the ground. But for me, there’s a grave waiting to someday hold my remains, and it sits next to one that holds the dust of my children.

We start this season of Lent reminded of our mortality. It’s the primary reason we so desperately need a Savior, because for every one of us (unless Jesus returns before then), death marks the end of this life. We will become dust. Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story…

Next post coming tomorrow.

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