I remember closing my eyes as a girl, and feeling the ashes scrape across my forehead. As I attended mass with classmates during my school day, we’d all be christened with a black cross of ashes on our foreheads. It made me stand out, at least in my own mind. That dark smudge set me apart, along with my parochial school classmates.
Funny how, as a girl, I never saw it as anything more than ritual. Even today, I catch myself thinking that people are wearing their faith on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. But does it mean anything to them, really? Does it mean anything more than, “I went to church, and you can see it right here.”
As I was reading a post about the ashes, I was utterly convicted.
“People of the cross.” Ann Voskamp calls those who follow after Jesus.
Those who wear the ashes on the Wednesday that ushers in Lent . . . they are wearing their faith out loud.
I tend to want to wear my faith a little more invisibly. I don’t want to stand out. Ashes on the forehead definitely make people glance longer at the wearer.
But as Christians, shouldn’t we stand out? Shouldn’t our lives reflect Jesus’ presence through our words, our actions?
Living an invisible faith can keep people from taking that second glance, but does it also make me blend in so much with the world that those around me can’t see Jesus?
Does every person who wears the ashes have that fervent relationship with Jesus? Probably not. But that’s not between me and them. It’s between them and Jesus.
Just like my desire to be inconspicuous is between Jesus and me.
He knows my heart. He knows where I’m at faith-wise. And an invisible faith doesn’t speak of His love to the world around me.
I don’t need to wear an outward representation of my faith—a cross around my neck, or on my forehead. But if I am a person of the cross, this should be obvious in my words, my actions, and especially my attitudes.
I can live “the right way” in the eyes of people around me. But Jesus knows what’s in my heart. He knows the sinful attitudes that sometimes reside there.
I want my faith to be authentic. Something that people see in my countenance, in my attitudes, words, actions.
As we move into the Lenten season, perhaps we can all examine our hearts and see what God is encouraging us to turn away from, encouraging us to give up to Him.
As a person of the cross, I want to love Him well, and to love others like He does. I can’t do this in and of myself.
May the cross we each wear reflect Jesus’ love to the world around us, and His vibrant presence within us.
What about you? How do you reflect Jesus to the world around you? How do you honor Lent?