04 March 2014

Ash Wednesday: Bring Your Kid

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.  For Christians, the Ash Wednesday service marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a penitential period in which we fast, discipline ourselves, and reflect on the life and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a holy time of anticipation and purpose, and for many it is our "favorite" season of the church.

But Ash Wednesday begins with a stark reminder of our mortality.  Ministers dip their thumbs in a bowl of ashes made from the palm branches waved to honor Jesus on Palm Sunday and mark a cross on the foreheads of all participants, while pronouncing a death sentence on us all:  "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

For the past seven years, this service has had an even deeper impact on me.  Every year I have
reached out a trembling thumb and made the sign of the cross on my own child.  As my friend David put it, "it gets you right in the feels."  I don't know how much my girls understand about that moment.  But we bring them every year, and if you have kids, you should bring yours, too.

Why?  Because it's important, even at an early age, to be honest with our kids about our mortality and our captivity to sin.  Ash Wednesday is a service that addresses both.  We can no more escape our bondage to sin than we can cheat death.  Both will have us in the end, and we owe it to ourselves and to our children to be honest about it.

I know it will be hard.  I know you don't want to think about your own death, and you certainly don't want to think about the death of your children.  But the only change that comes with hiding from the truth is an inability to deal with the truth when it is finally forced upon us.  We have a choice:  acknowledge our sin and death now, or be confronted with it in all its ugly power when it lands upon us.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.  Go to church.  Bring your kids.


  1. Beautiful. Tonight my own children (9 year-old twin boys) are attending our Ash Wednesday service for the first time, and my husband/co-pastor and I will be marking their foreheads. I can imagine it's going to get me "right in the feels" as well! We've had good conversation with them about what this service and season are about, and I'm looking forward to watching them learn and grow, as well as to their helping me see things with new eyes.

    1. It's such a holy moment, isn't it, earthchick? Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Thank you, Scott! I saw someone opine on a FB page that imposition of ashes was "new" and I replied that I remember it from my earliest years. I knew that it was solemn and serious and about Jesus. I learned more as time went on...

    1. I remember going to Ash Wednesday services as long as I've been able to walk. Protestants of some traditions may be reclaiming the practice, but Lutherans in America have been doing Ash Wednesday for quite some time. Thanks for reading and commenting!