Every baby I bore had the same birth defect, inherited of their mother, their father, all who have ever come before…
They were all born with the turned-away face.
I remember this on a Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, on a grey February afternoon with the snow falling right cold.
I watch snow fall and think of our fall away.
I think of the ways we have scraped today. And the ways we have been scraped and the tears that have fallen and how, now and then, in midst of the happy, we have bled sadness.
And I wonder if we could be cured of the turned-away-from-God faces if we found a place to make u-turns?
A place to make a fresh start.
A literal place, a place to touch our sins, our humanity, our ephemeral existence — a place to touch His grace, His forgiveness…. His face.
Mamas are makers and I smile and I go make a place for the fresh starts.
On the prayer bench, I set out a bowl of white flour dust. We are that: dust made white.
Dust redeemed by that which bowed its head in sacrifice, was ground, offered Himself to be eaten, consumed, food for the soul.
I light a candle.
I write out Colossians 3:12-14 in black ink on fibrous paper of a journal made in Indonesia:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and
forgive whatever grievances you may have
against one another.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect
I lay out some word-guideposts in the journal …
a way to help the lost turn around.
This will be a coming away place to turn around place.
On the wall, behind this place of prayer, hangs the quilt with the stitches that makes words.
Stitches that spell out words on “How to Be Happy.”
This repenting just might make us that.
A daughter cries angry and a door slams hard and some here are having an Alexander-no-good-very-bad-awful-day . Australia seems particularly inviting.
I wrap love around her shoulder and invite her to come away to prayer because as a parent, the best I can do for soul-sick children is to bring them close to Jesus and let them feel His touch.
She fingers along Colossians and she reads the word-guideposts in the journal slowly:
FORGIVENESS : Fresh Start
Jesus took the nail for your sins. He had to find a way to forgive you. He couldn’t live broken away from you.
Right now you hurt. Jesus can give you His strength to forgive. Do you want to find a way to forgive? You too can’t live with the brokenness.
Remember how God has forgiven you?
1. Lay your finger in the dust... and write a word or draw a picture of two ways God has forgiven you.
2. Bow your head and thank Godfor graciously forgiving you.
3. Pass your hand through the dust, erasing the sins and know that God completely forgives you.
Is there someone God is calling you right now to forgive?
1. Write or draw it in the dust.
2. Ask God for His love to forgive — the same love that has forgiven you.
3. Smooth out the dust and the memory of the sin.
How do you feel now with God’s forgiveness working in and through you?
Write or draw that feeling in the dust, a gift for the next person who comes behind.
And she lays her finger down in that dust.
The dust becomes dust and she etches her hurt out in granules but I don’t see the name, the feeling.
I do see her fingers made white.
Here, in dust, the dust repents, is forgiven and offers forgiveness, and our real repentance isn’t an event but a way of living and this is a beginning.
The faces turned-away from God are healed in a repentance that turns the face around.
And our faces are healed in the turning to face His face.
You can’t earn God’s love. You can only turn towards God love.
I watch her quiet and bow. Then her hand lies flat and she lays it down smooth and like a washing, the dust is cleaned of sin.
It is Ash Wednesday and I can hear the words all over the globe that turn the faces towards Easter: Repent ye and believe the gospel.
Repent and live grace, repent and live forgiveness, repent and live the good news of a love that defies reasoning, a joy that defies circumstances, a Relationship that defies time.
Repent and be made well…. fresh start.
She looks up at me.
“I left something in the dust for the next broken person who comes behind.” She twinkles.
And Australia doesn’t seem necessary just quite yet.
She hugs me clean.
And over her shoulder, I see it in the bowl.
I squeeze her tight and laugh fresh joy and there in the dust bowl I can see her u-turn, the turned-away face now turned towards God, the birth-defect healed, and I see what she’s left behind:
In the dust, for the dust, she’s drawn a smiley face.
Like the smiling, forgiving face of God.
Related: Ash Wednesday: Cleaning Dust