Tonight I wear a cross of ashes on the middle of my forehead . It’s there to remind me of something I’d rather forget.
“ I am dust. And to dust I shall return. “
This dust is weighty stuff. It makes me think about life and death. It reminds me that death’s inescapable, that it happens to us all, and as it does, that it levels the playing field. We’ve no bargaining power or currency that will allow us to opt out. So all of life’s accumulations of fame and fortune and power are irrevocaby snuffed out with our last gasping breath. Why then, with this all being true, have I spent so much of my life pursuing these, even on the smallest of scales?
This weighty dust reminds me of a dusty Jesus during his desert temptings. Forty days and nights of fasting left him empty when he met the devil with an attaché full of contracts on an unleveled playing field. The devil offered Jesus what the entire world chases its tail to get… fame and fortune and power. And with the grit of dust between his teeth, Jesus declined.
“No.” “No.” “Hell, no.”
If I’m reading a little between the lines on this last answer, it’s not too far off the mark. Because whatever Jesus’ words were, they were forceful enough to make the devil pack up his wares in a hurry. And what could be more frightening to any tempter than to hear the words ‘no’ and ‘hell’ linked together?
I’m so dinged up and tarnished from everyday life that maybe a forty day fast of something will help me to enter into a spiritual desert with Jesus. Maybe there I can remember that I need to die to the worst parts of my self — those that I’ve acquired over fifty-some years of living — that keep me from being true to myself and even kind to myself, amidst the trippings and the trappings of fame and fortune and power. If only it could be easy to let go of these props and take off these masks, for it’s these that have made me unwieldy and clumsy, that have made me acquire a few dings and rough edges along the way. Maybe some of the desert dust could sandblast me into something shiny and new to smooth out the dings and knock off my rough edges. Maybe then I will be more like myself. Maybe this weighty desert dust will also help remind me that I am dust….but not yet dead weight.