Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ashes to Ashes

Today is Ash Wednesday and Graham and I met Marcus downtown for a noon service. It was a lovely, contemplative service that included the ritual imposition of ashes, which I always find to be a moving reminder of our brokeness, our mortality, and of God's grace and our redemption.

Before we went to receive our ashes, Marcus asked if I thought that Graham should get ashes on his head as well. My knee-jerk reaction was "No. He's got nothing to repent for." Sure, I'm his mom so I'm biased, but seriously, what sins could a seven week old commit? (His three-year-old sister on the other hand is another story :)

But when Marcus went up to the altar with Graham in his arms the pastor put the sign of a cross on both of their heads.

As I looked at the little black soot mark on my son's little forehead, it made me want to cry. But my tears of sadness soon turned to tears of gratitude and joy. Because the more I thought about it, he, like me, like his dad, like his sweet big sister, like all of us, is human. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Being human means that he is imperfect. He is part of this world and surrounded by great joy and great sorrow. He has within him the capacity for goodness as well as sin. And most of all, he is a child of God--loved, forgiven, and redeemed by God.

It also reminded me of a great article I read in this month's Sojourner's magazine called "The Heresy of the Perfect Parent" by Kari Jo Verhulst. She raises a lot of interesting points, among them questioning the validity of the idea that we, as parents, somehow think it's our job to make our children perfect people--as if. She writes: "For it is in those moments when grace cracks through, and I realize that [my daughter] is not mine, but belongs body and soul in life and in death, to her faithful savior Jesus Christ (to borrow from an old catechism), that I feel the least overwhelmed by the task of mothering her for the foreseeable future."

I am not a perfect person, not a perfect mom. And Graham will not be perfect either. But that's what grace is for after all. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...