inside: how Ash Wednesday reminds us of God’s grace

inside - Ash Wednesday - smudge on forehead

As I considered how to start this season of Lent, what struck me forcibly was the symbolism of Ash Wednesday, which is where we begin. Even though my home church doesn’t participate in Lenten practices, I see the value in them. A smudge of Palm Sunday’s ash pressed on the forehead is a visible and powerful reminder of why Jesus came to earth.

I’m truly grateful to have my sin largely concealed on the inside. It’s not always evident to those who know me or strangers who might come across me. Although much is revealed in our behaviour. Because our actions and words often speak for themselves. We can become adept at concealing our inner darkness, of course, but it’s a relief that the worst of us is known only to God. 😏

Safely tucked inside

What if God asked us to dare to wear
our sin, not like a hidden, dark, secret
stain within, but on the outside of us
instead, where it would be made visible
to all—would it bleed scarlet-red?

Or might we resemble bodily black-rimmed
coal miners, with thick, choking clouds of
dust ingrained deep into their skin, which
won’t wash off under the tap, rather
like an indelible tattoo, perhaps?

Or splattered in splotches, like scars,
as if we were pigs rolling around in mud,
up to our ears and all. Or battered, brawny
rugby players after a match, before we
went for our cleansing hot bath.

Maybe it’s better how it is now,
with a mere smudge gracing our
foreheads, and all the rest safely
tucked inside our souls, where we
keep the dross God only knows.

inside - safely tucked inside poem excerpt - coal miners (C)joylenton

We can delude ourselves into thinking we are better than we are. Or we can become deceived into believing nothing good resides within at all. The truth is a mixture of them both. Left to our own devices, we are fallen and lost. But God… picks us up, heals, redeems and restores our souls, calls us His precious Beloved and makes His home in our hearts.

That’s what Easter is all about. A Divine exchange takes place. Our filthy rags for His royal robe of righteousness. Our sin for His grace. Our pain for His peace. Our tears for His oil of joy. God excels in bringing beauty out of ashes. He isn’t fazed by our brokenness because He alone can piece us back together. God’s holy glue makes us better than before, with a gradual sanctification process as we surrender our lives to Him.

“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.” – Isaiah 61:3 TLB

10 thoughts on “inside: how Ash Wednesday reminds us of God’s grace

  1. Dear Joy,
    I am resting in these words today:
    “A Divine exchange takes place. Our filthy rags for His royal robe of righteousness. Our sin for His grace. Our pain for His peace. Our tears for His oil of joy.”
    As I have had to spend so many more hours lately in my bath-robe, those words of His “royal robe” take on a fresh meaning for me. He sees us so differently than we see ourselves! All because of what He went through for us, we have such a royal family to be part of now! I am so grateful for the mercy that He has showered upon me! Blessings and love to you Dear Friend!

    • Dear Bettie, it’s an arresting image to rest in, isn’t it? Such grace leaves us speechless. I’m another who sits in her nightclothes longer than most. Mornings are definitely not my best time! It takes so long to wake up properly and start to feel the slightest bit lively. Soreness and stiffness of limb don’t help either, do they? As I sip my coffee tomorrow morning, I will try to remember that God’s view of me surpasses what my tired eyes can see. Because we are far more than the sum of our parts and infinitely worthy to God. May you continue to rest in the royal robes, which He delights to clothe us in. Blessings and love (and a raised coffee cup) to you, my dear friend and comrade in this slowed down life! xoxo

  2. Such a touching poem, Joy. So descriptive of what we would be like if our sin showed on the outside. Yes, it’s a relief that only God knows what is inside us. This really grabs me – “But God… picks us up, heals, redeems and restores our souls, calls us His precious Beloved and makes His home in our hearts.” “But God” has such a depth of meaning, doesn’t it? I’m so grateful for His unconditional love! Love and blessings to you!

    • Thanks, Trudy. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek but I think it gets the point across! What a relief to be able to keep most of our sin and failings hidden from others, if not from God. That’s pure grace in itself. I love the words, “But God…” I think they might be my mini testimony. And they hold a “depth of meaning” unique to all of us. May we have a fresh awakening within to how wonderful God’s grace is, and the tremendous gift of being unconditionally loved by Him! Love and blessings to you too, dear friend! xo 💜

  3. I wrote about beauty for ashes. we don’t need to tear our clothes and sit in them because of Him. I remembered too how Jacob tore his clothes when he though Joseph was dead, he believed a lie and
    mourned, I have had that happen to me. We have to stop letting the enemy lie us out of beauty.

    • It’s hugely full of symbolism and significance, isn’t it? I love how the season of Lent gives us space to reflect more on the essence of our faith. Blessings on your weekend, Tara! x 😊💜

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