Zoe still goes to bed too early to make it through an evening Ash Wednesday service, so I haven’t yet had the gift and burden of tracing an ashy cross on her forehead and saying, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
But every day, Zoe reminds me of that simple fact. When I look at her, I see the big girl she is becoming and also the little baby she will always be in my heart. I see how she is growing and changing and living, and I know that, as the chilling short story I read in Spanish class lo these many years ago melodramatically put it, “every step she takes is a step closer to death”. (Mortality, man. What can you do?)
But every night, I trace a cross on Zoe’s forehead, just as I did in her baptism. I remind her, and myself, that she is a child of God. She is beloved. She is marked not just for death but for new life in Christ.
If you’re getting your ash on today, remember not only that you are dust but also that you are God’s. You belong to the one who brings light from darkness, order from chaos, and life from death.
And whether you’re getting your ash on or not, take a moment today and give thanks for your dusty self. For your breath, your body, your precious life.