is a wholeness and peace found in our weakness, in
those places of our hearts where we feel most
broken, most insecure, most in agony, most
afraid." -- Henri Nouwen
After the Ashes
Sidney Poitier writes
in his biographical
In some African
tribes the young boys must cover their faces
with ashes before their initiation into manhood.
In certain Nordic cultures the young boys used
to sit down in the ashes by the fire in the
center of the lodge house until they were ready
to take on their adult role. And everybody knows
about Cinderella, the girl who had to tend to
cinders and do all the lowly chores until her
true identity became
Historically, ashes have symbolized
seasons of serious trial.
Tamar covered herself with
ash after she was raped by her brother Amnon
(2 Samuel 3:19). Mordecai put on sackcloth and
ashes when King Ahasuerus issued a genocidal
decree against the Jews (Esther 4:1-3). Job sat
down among ashes when his wealth was destroyed and
his sons were all killed (Job 2:8). The King
of Nineveh sat in ashes when he realized the
wickedness of his city (Jonah 3:6).
We've all experienced times
of ashes, and the Psalmist speaks for each of us when
he writes: "I have eaten ashes like bread,
and mingled my drink with weeping" (Psalm 102:9). Perhaps
you find yourself "eating ashes" right now.
ashes are all that remain after the fire.
with so much and finish with seemingly nothing.
Yet, this burning and purging need not be the
end. Just as God took the dust of the earth and
created life the first time, so He continues to
take ashes and create new life. Indeed, the fire
(like the Cross) becomes a necessity in our journey towards
The ashes may come from abandonment
or abuse, from alcoholism or addiction, from sickness
or sin, from death or divorce. Whatever their
source, Christ can turn them into
Out of the ashes, by God's grace, life
Jesus opened the scroll of the prophet
Isaiah and declared:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon
the Lord has anointed me,
To bring good news
to the afflicted ...
To comfort all who mourn
Giving them a garland instead of
The oil of gladness instead of
The mantle of praise instead of a
spirit of fainting.
So they will be called
oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the
Lord, that He may be
The Cross gives way to resurrection.
Our ashes become oaks.
In HOPE -