When I was young, I would play catch with myself sometimes.
It’s easier than it sounds. I just threw the ball up on to the roof and then caught it as it rolled down off. I can remember one afternoon I made a particularly heroic catch, wheeled around and threw the ball back up at the roof. Only it didn’t get quite high enough and went right into the bathroom window, broke it and fell back to the ground. Ooops.
It kind of freaked me out. I mean I didn’t know what to do. I debated just going back inside and pretending nothing happened. When the folks asked, I could plead ignorance. I wasn’t convinced that would work, plus my little 7 year old self could remember them telling me that it always went better when I told the truth. So I walked, kind of scared, back inside to tell them what happened. I was so surprised when they didn’t get mad and just told me, “accidents happen” and “we can fix it.” What a load off that was. I can remember how relieved I felt.
It’s a similar feeling of unease and then relief that I love about Ash Wednesday. Some time ago, the church set aside 40days (not counting sundays) as a time to prepare for Easter. The way we prepare is to think through how badly we need God to fix the messes we make. Ash Wednesday is the start of that preparation. We spend time together moving toward Jesus and acknowledging we broke the window, and we can not fix it. We smear ashes on our forehead as a reminder that without the death and resurrection of Jesus to fix it all, we would return to dust and be done. It’s somber and peaceful and a relief.