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And To Dust You Shall Return

Let me preface this post by saying I grew up Southern Baptist. We were more about Easter egg hunts and sunrise services than Lent and liturgy. But as an adult, I have found myself drawn to the traditions of the church. Of exploring seasons of waiting and anticipating.

So this week, I went to my first Ash Wednesday service. Normally I would have researched the day, done what I could to understand the reasons behind the traditions. But time slipped away from me. So at 8 in the morning I walked into the still chilly church and sat in a pew. I listened while the scripture was read. Joined my voice with the other worshipers as we murmured “Thanks be to God.” And even as we lined up in the aisle, waiting for the priest to touch our foreheads with his ash-coated thumb, I didn’t quite understand why.

I’ll admit that I even hoped I would get in the line with the priest who wasn’t as heavy-handed with the ashes. I didn’t want to be blemished for the rest of the day.

And that’s when I realized why I was at this Ash Wednesday service. I grew up with my polished shoes and my white dress and my veneer of perfection. You hid your sin.

But I’ve learned, it’s only when you acknowledge your sin, allow it to bubble to the surface, can it be cleaned away. Only when I acknowledge that I am unclean, can I be cleansed.

The ashes mar my mask.

And when I stood in front of the priest, felt the ashes trickle down my face, freckling my nose, I did so acknowledging that I am dirty. Sinful. Fallen.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

But I have been cleansed.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Brandy Campbell

Brandy is a full-time writer at an international organization that works with more than 1.2 million children in poverty. She is a writer, a storyteller, a yarn spinner and a pen pal. She's also a baker, a world traveler, a daughter, a friend and an aunt. She hates mornings, olives, cheap pens, snakes and splinters.

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