“Getting” our ashes wasn’t something to be proud of. In fact, if we’re in it for the right reasons, it’s an act of humility. We bow down to our Creator, recognize our proper place (as dust in His hands) and prepare ourselves to seek reconnection, or deeper connection, with Him during Lent.
I was anticipating this mark on my forehead all week – anticipating being seen as a person “of the Cross” by others, because people look at you differently when you have ashes on your head. In fact, they find it hard to look you in the eye at all. They keep trying not to stare at that smear between your eyebrows. It makes many uncomfortable. Others think it’s weird. It makes them think, if even for a second – about Christ and His followers. And that’s not popular in many circles.
I’ve been one of the “People of the Cross” for quite some time, but I first heard this term on Sunday night when I saw Ann Voskamp‘s Facebook post – a still-shot from the video of the 21 men martyred on a beach in Libya over the weekend. This latest savagery by ISIS specifically warns the “People of the Cross,” and would usually provoke an instantaneous physical reaction in me. Violence (or knowledge of it) makes my hair stand on end, adrenaline surge, and stomach flip, and then I become nauseous – very, very nauseous. But strangely, I stared at their names in the sidebar and felt…peace. I recognized – the horror was over. I prayed for their families, each one by name, and felt…more peace. So, I thought about why for all of the next day. And I knew that God, from whom nothing is hidden, was seeing me wonder, helping me figure it out.
Monday, my daughter and I drove to her piano lesson, and I was thinking again about men in orange jumpsuits on a beach….
Oh, dear God, what was going through their minds? Hooded men with sabers standing right behind them. Each one knew this was it. Take one man, you know – did he hear the waves ebbing in and out? Or just the pounding in his ears?
Out of nowhere, my daughter asks,
“Who was the greatest person who ever lived?”
I am taken to an even deeper place of calm.
“No, I mean, on Earth.”
I hear myself say His name – matter of fact. It’s like my need to over-explain, my anxiety, my rush to fear – I must ensure that she gets this – has been stripped from me.
“Who was the second most important?” she follows-up.
“There really wasn’t one. No one comes close.”
There’s a slight pause. And then she says,
“Oh, yeeaaaa….. right. You’re right, Mom.”
Hmmm. Odd. There’s a satisfied customer in the backseat, and I didn’t tell her about anything. The conversation drops, and we ride in silence until some other, random topic emerges.
But I’ve finally realized why I’m at peace about the beheading of 21 men. Because what’s shown in the images, is not the full Truth. The horror isn’t the only thing that happened there. In verbalizing His name aloud, I have witnessed to myself the Truth my heart and soul already knew. He, Name Above All Names – Jesus – was there too. And “he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Jesus was right there on that beach. Why He allows such terror, I don’t know, but I have full confidence that He was waiting right there for those who called out, “Lord, help me.” Arms outstretched, scarred hands wide open to receive His children, He was waiting to welcome them home. Waiting to say to each and every one, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I don’t want to live a life of cheap grace, where nothing is required of me. I want to be humbled, to bow down only before a perfect King who endured every suffering, rejection, and death, then overcame it all, for me. So, I wear my ashen cross, not with pride, but with reverence, because I am His, I’ve surrendered, and it’s brought me peace.