"WAIT!" I squealed, but it was too late. My neat little cross became a weird, black smudge. Like one of those cards that Psychologists will show you and you what you "see in this picture."
Instead of explaining this important part of my faith in a calm and informed fashion, I blurted out, "Step away from my forehead. It's Ash Wednesday, and my forehead is supposed to be dirty." I then shook my head, puffed up my chest and walked proudly into that lunchroom with my black smudge.
Growing up in the Bible Belt can make for some awkward encounters with non-Catholics.
FACING THE DIRT
The truth was...I didn't really know how to explain myself and my "dirty forehead." I didn't know how to tell this friend that these ashes were not just a reason to get out of school for a few hours and later test my self confidence. I didn't know how to tell her that these ashes were a sign of my opportunity to repent and take a look at myself more deeply as I entered the season of Lent.
The TRUTH is ... these ashes are a chance to humble ourselves and prepare for the Risen Christ in Easter. God brought us up out of the dirt (Genesis 2:7) and formed us. We come from dust, and to dust we shall return. We fall short of perfection all the time, but we are given the grace of forgiveness and self-awareness!
TAKE SOME TIME
Take some time today to really examine your spiritual life, especially as you consider what changes you are going to make for Lent. In what areas have you fallen short? How can you grow closer to Christ during this holy and reflective season? In answering these questions for yourselves, you can be prepared to face questions about that "dirt on your forehead" with a simple, "Yeah. That's because I'm a sinner, but Jesus loves me anyway."
By Talia Westerby
Assitant Executive Director of Arise