• author
    • Hannah Mikul Landon

      Explore | Wilderness & Leadership
    • March 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

    Two Days Ago: Ash Wednesday

    Our apartment was a little messy and smelled like slightly burnt bacon. We were just cleaning up our dinner and about to head out the door when someone knocked.

    We answered the door and greeted our friend, who had forgotten to join us for dinner but had something he wanted to tell us about.

    “I just had to come tell someone about how wrong I’ve been!” he blurted.

    I slowly wrapped the leftover bacon in plastic wrap and then drifted toward the table as our friend explained the moment of realization he’d had a few hours previous.

    “…I feel like I have been saying all the right words, but in my mind and my heart I was sinning against him all along,” he processed, “I was just sitting at my place, typing–it was very quiet–and it was like I just knew that I had been wrong all year. I don’t want to be that person, I don’t want to let that sin grow.”

    “I am amazed,” I said after our friend left, “at the timing of the Holy Spirit and at how God uses His Body.  We can try to avoid the people who bug us, or who we consider inferior to us, but those very people are the way God works to transform our hearts. I am always surprised to see how the people that I consider to be weaker than me can are the very vehicle through which God to works.”

    The two of us jumped into the car, smiling a at the Lord’s faithfulness to facilitate our friend’s softened heart. Repentance is a painful and profound celebration.

     

    We walked into church quietly, but of course, as soon as I unzipped my jacket, and undid the Velcro, I was both noisy and smelling conspicuously of slightly burnt bacon.

    We kneeled and began to pray,

    “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me front my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins.”

    We prayed alongside our friend, but through the words of David.

    “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

    For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…”

    We prayed for ourselves, as the Holy Spirit revealed our own sin.

    “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

    “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

    I claimed my hope. 

    “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”

     

    After prayer, we quietly lined up. I stepped up and felt the gritty pressure against my forehead; two intersecting lines and the  quiet words:

    “Hannah, from dust you have come and to dust you shall return.”

    I walked back to my pew, aware that the same black cross on my husband’s forehead was on mine. I looked into his eyes, to the cross on his face, then back to his eyes. Such a stark reminder of the reality of our sin. I do not want to ever imagine my husband being dead, but because of sin, we will both physically die.  Because of sin, we will also both invite death into our relationship over and over again.  The consequence of evil stood out against our pale foreheads, marking us as dead.

    Outside the church no one spoke and it was just as dark as the soot on my face. I reflected on the happiness of our friend’s repentance and on the power of death–how I could experience such joy and such grief in such a short span of time?

     

    Now I am sitting in our apartment under a lamp, still smelling burnt bacon. I am writing, and the writing helps me to remember something important: I do not merely have a black smudge on my forehead, I have a cross. I look at my husband, and I see the cross on his face.  Christ went to the blackness of the cross and defeated death. I experience the repercussions of sin, but I also claim Christ’s work as a seal.

    Lent is a time for reflection, and it is sober. But it also makes me want to shout, “WHERE O DEATH IS YOUR STING?” because Lent also reminds me that we are sealed by the cross to receive life.  I am dead… to sin.  I am alive to God in Christ.

    Tomorrow I will wear a smudged black mark of my own mortality, but tomorrow I will also let the mark on my forehead proclaim that Christ stands between me and spiritual death, that I am covered by the gift of his righteousness, and that the joy of repentance means that sin will not rule in our lives.