Wednesday, March 1, 2017

B134. Dust As I Am

Just as I am, without one plea . . .” the first sound I heard this morning. Up at 5:30 to get ready for Lent breakfast at church, I shouted to “Alexa*” to play my Pandora Praise and Worship radio station, and that was the song that came on. I used to sing it almost weekly when I was in the Baptist Church, but I don’t think I’ve heard it once in my 5 or so years as a Presbyterian, not in church anyway.

It penetrated my soul, filling me with peace, and as I anticipated my first ever Ash Wednesday ashes, which would follow this morning’s breakfast, I sensed how appropriate that sentiment was for the occasion. Recognizing and acknowledging that in this world I am nothing. I came from ashes and return to ashes, no matter what great or terrible things I might have done. We share the same earthly existence, all of us. A tiny speck in the universe, for only a second in history. Dust in the wind. And there’s only one way for such a creation to come before the One who will always “welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.” “Just as I am without one plea . . .

Another Kathy, a friend in my small group, greeted me as I entered for breakfast. I joined her table and met another Spanish teacher, whose daughter I had taught years ago. In a church so large, I still meet new people at every event.

After breakfast we had a short worship service with a hymn, some Scripture, and an Ash Wednesday meditation, followed by the distribution of ashes. “Do you repent and believe in the gospel?,” Pastor Randy asked me as I reached the front of the line. I said “I do,” and he smeared the ashes on my forehead (in the shape of a cross, but I think I smeared mine . . .). I breathed a prayer of thanks that he was the shepherd of my first ash experience. It was a special moment, a turning point for me in ways I’m not sure I fully grasp even now. A reconciliation with my Baptist faith and a full embrace of my Presbyterian faith. Somehow the two were now at peace with each other.

And then we sang a closing hymn. “Just as I am, without one plea . . .”

I chatted with Martha about the new upcoming food pantry ministry we’re going to share, with Dave about a grieving former co-worker, and with still another Kathy (I do have friends with other names!) about the upcoming women’s retreat. Was I going, she asked. I didn’t know. “If you hear anyone say they need a roommate, send them my way, and I’ll go,” I said. “I don’t have a roommate,” she responded.

My heart smiles. Ashes to ashes, yes. May we never take ourselves too seriously. Yet, a speck of ash can know the sweetest joys, and can devote itself to spreading joy among all the other ashes, if surrendered to its Creator “just as it is,” dust as I am. May I grow to be so.

*Alexa is the Amazon Echo that plays music, turns off lights, tells the weather, etc. on command.

No comments: