Guess what day it is! That's right, it's Wednesday. Ash Wednesday. The humor of Hump Day falls rather flat for me today.
I am sitting at my desk, straining in my seat against the dagger-like pain that is piercing my left hip. Wincing, I stare out the narrow window in my office, the only opening to the outside world, the only inlet of natural light. There isn't much of that today. The sky is cloud covered, a gray canopy hanging overhead. Tiny flecks of snow flitter and float, dancing with the winter air. Its' cold outside. Not the cold that burns the skin and pierces through to bone, brought on by the subzero temps of the last few days. But it's cold nonetheless, the kind of cold that settles on the skin and causes a wave of shivers to ebb and flow on my arms, even as I sit inside a 70 degree room.
Dreary weather for a dreary day. I can't think of much else except for dust and ashes. As dead as it is outside, today is a reminder for me of how much more death reigns in my natural self. There is still evidence of life out there. A murder of crows congregates around the deep green nettles of a fir tree. That evergreen was abused by the ice storm of early winter. Branches broken under the weight of ice still lie prone against its trunk. Yet the tree is very much alive. But inside, I find myself bent and broken under the weight of my guilt. Because of my sin, I am a dead man walking. Doomed to death. For dust we are, and to dust we must return!
Today I don't find myself gazing atop the hump of any old Wednesday in anticipation of the goodness that any other Friday holds. I rather find myself in a vale, peering upward in appreciation toward the one Friday that is truly Good. A Friday that happened two millennia ago and whose observance is still more than a month away. On that day the King who had descended his heavenly throne humbled himself further by ascending the cross. It is Good because on that day, the Author of Life surrendered himself to Death - a curse that is rightly mine. It is Good because on that day, the Judge of All himself suffered under his own judgment and brought justice to us all.
Today, more than any other day of the year, I humble myself. I lay myself in the dust that will one day become my bed, because I know that from this vantage alone I can look up and find grace and mercy. The Water of Life has covered my debt, washed me clean, and made me impervious to the icy hand of Death. I know that, one day, maybe even today, I will die. But that is something I no longer fear, for the Light of the World has pierced through the dread pall of death and opened the door to eternal life. Because he lives, I too shall live!
As I look out the window again, I notice the subtle movement of the corners of my mouth, fighting gravity as they push upward against my cheeks. The clouds are retreating. Grace always triumphs.