Today, many of us will receive a smudge of ash on our foreheads. It's an action that echoes baptism, a cross on our forehead. Like baptism, it is about belonging to a people. Like baptism, it is about death.
Remembering that we are going to die is intended to foster some humility in us. Humility is necessary to serve. Humility is necessary to love.
Lately, I feel like a beginner in all the above.
Despite years of going to church, listening for Good News, even reading and trying to learn the lessons of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, who taught nothing if not humility, I find myself at the beginning.
The election of Donald Trump has brought out a lot of things about me that I don't particularly like. I am angry. I am haughty. I am judgmental. I fear that he and people he gathers around him are directly opposed and dangerous to me and people I love.
And one direct commandment we have from Jesus is this: "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." [Luke 6:27-28]
I always make plain as I can that humility is chosen, not compelled. In Jesus' words, I don't hear him saying to a downtrodden people, "Love the Roman occupiers because that's your lot in life." That's the way slavers talk to slaves.
I believe that in telling us to love our enemies, Jesus is saying love, which takes humility, is our strength and redemption.
Baptized into a death like Christ, I am free in Christ and in that freedom, I am free to choose love.
But I find myself lacking in the skill set needed for this choice.
This is me taking the commandment of Jesus seriously and this is me admitting I don't want to do it and this is me knowing my peace and salvation depends on following it.
I don't know how to love.
Step one: Remember that I am dust.