Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance marking the beginning of Lent. Spiritually speaking, dusting oneself with ashes was a sign of sorrow for sins. "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26). Ezekiel 9 tells the story of a linen clad messenger marking foreheads indicating sorrow for the sins of the people. Lent marks a 40 day period parallel to the days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness.
It's a beautiful reminder that we come to the Lord sin laden with scars beyond repair. We place our broken lives into His hands and emerge alive for the very first time. We exchange loneliness for His constant presence and the agony of our own sins for the peace of His forgiveness. We become more aware in these days that the eternal damnation we deserve has been conquered by the Ultimate Sacrifice. How can those who believe do anything else but kneel at that cross and whisper, "Thank you. A million times thank you."
This season will come and go whether you stop to acknowledge it or not. But this year, for this life, I'm choosing to remember. And I'm eternally grateful today, all over again, for the ways He exchanges beauty for ashes.