"Know that you are dust and to dust you shall return" --traditional blessing for Ash Wednesday
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Lententide is a time for each Christian to focus on the suffering passion of Jesus Christ so that, in my opinion, we can put some of our own sufferings into perspective. It also provides a dark backdrop for the glorious resurrection to help make Easter stand out that much more in our lives and in our souls.
As a military chaplain from a traditional church, I offered a special service to kick off the Season of Lent. We had about 60 trainees from here at Fort Benning join me at Regimental Chapel for a service of Imposition of Ashes. It was a time for us to rend our hearts in confession to God, to admit our sorrow for our sin, and to once again be reminded of His love for us in Jesus Christ.
Part of the service is the traditional signing with ashes. As the pastor, I asked each individual in attendance to come forward and, with ashes, I made the sign of the cross upon their forehead and spoke the traditional words, "Know that you are but dust and to dust you shall return." A reminder to each of us that we are mortal and not long for this world.
Except, with this congregation, there was an irony that was not lost on me. In fact, it moved me deeply as I applied ashes to the foreheads of these young men. "Know that you are but dust and to dust you shall return" is a phrase that each of use to remind ourselves of our own mortality. But everyone that I signed last night, save my wife, was in an Army Combat Uniform (ACU) and was at some point of preparing for war. If the present operations tempo continues, all of my constituents last night will see warfare. They will deploy to an area of the world where people will seek to do them harm. Some of them may return to the dust sooner than others of us.
Sure, I realize that anyone reading these words could meet with an untimely event that ends our life but most of us take precautions to avoid such things. The young men that I signed last night will take precautions in their missions as well but still, for the freedom and security of our nation, they will seek out harm and danger.
A pastor friend of mine once commented on how difficult it was to sign his infant son and say the words, "Know that you are dust and to dust you shall return." After last night, I believe I know what he meant.