Today is Ash Wednesday in our religious tradition. We impose ashes on our forehead and are told that we are dust, and “To dust you shall return.” It is an honest day.
The forests of my home welcome fire as a regular part of life. Left to their own devices forests will burn slowly in various places throughout the dry summer months. The trees are scorched but not destroyed. Dead branches and spots of undergrowth are cleared away. Certain seeds wait for the fire to crack them open. They cannot grow without the season of ash.
So today I have donned ashes with the faithful here in Chicago. I have thought of trees. They probably have not. I have remembered the charred trunks of living Douglas Firs, strengthened by their history of hardship. I don’t know what images have come to the minds of others.
Lord, let humility burn frequently, yet spottily in my life. May Christ’s crucifixion be the last raging fire our world ever devises. A little ash, new life, a clearing of the clutter, the ongoing vitality of history, a cracking open of a hope that awaits my faithfulness – this is my prayer.