“Dust you were, and to Dust you will return. You belong to God” The words of Reverend Jim Layman shook me as I received the ashes of penitence. I had never been to an Ash Wednesday service, being raised Southern Baptist will keep a man from that. But with my recent movement towards the Presbyterian Church, I have been involved with more traditional practices of the faith. I’d heard the dust quote before, and also that I belong to God. It’s told to young followers at Sunday School. But there was power in the details tonight.
It was a nasty day; cold, wet, the kind that seeps in to your bones. The church wasn’t near full, but there was a warmth inside. The songs were very simple, full of meaning. I especially liked “Jesus walked that Lonesome Valley”. The litany was strong, giving and receiving the word. But the receiving of ashes, offering yourself up for repentance, prayer, and self-examination, tore me to pieces. The power was in everything, tangible. It was in the waiting, in watching others receive, in the shaking hand that dipped in to the ashes, and the large fingers that swept them on my forehead. But mostly, it the eyes, the voice, and the words. “Dust you were, and to Dust you will return.” I almost walked away, I lowered my eyes… he continued, and I raised my eyes to his. “You belong to God” His voice was shaking, nearly cracking with the blessing he was passing on to me.
No matter what, I belong to God. We all do, what freedom is this! A love so deep that I should belong to Jesus. I nearly teared up, my eyes were glassy, and I am not a cryer by any means. I walked back to my seat, eyes shining. I pray that the Lord will show me his way during this season of Lent.
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