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Dreams and Ashes

I had a dream last night. It doesn’t happen often that I wake, still remembering. It’s even more rare to not have it fade away to little more than an inexplicable feeling or a sort-of-there-but-not emotion, by the time the coffee is done brewing.

But this morning, it’s there.  An uncomfortable scene in a dimly lit room, a conversation I shouldn’t have been overhearing. Words that cut, deeply. And then, Vinnie spoke words that healed, without even knowing I was there, in the shadows.

I awoke to Asher in the dark, pressing his face to the side of the bed  and asking if I could take him to the bathroom. When I returned to bed, I reached across to touch the sleeping back of my hero. I closed my eyes again, thinking of the words he had said. It’s not just because I love Melanie. It’s because I promised to be for her, forever.

I drifted back to sleep, this time talking to some faceless person about love, as an amusement park. How love isn’t always the awe and beauty of the top of the Ferris Wheel, how more often than not, it’s walking together,  maneuvering through crowds and distractions. It’s trying to figure out which lines are worth waiting in, and which are not.

Or something.  The fading away begins.

And now it’s morning.  It’s Ash Wednesday.

Mourning Wednesday.

I didn’t practice it growing up, only knew it as the day that some kids at my school would come in with smudges of gray on their foreheads. The same kids who would occasionally look at me sort of confused when I explained that I was a Christian too, just not a Catholic.

I didn’t believe that the ritual of a smudge of ash on my forehead did anyone any good. I didn’t understand the fasting, the commercials for Filet-O-Fish.

As a girl, as a teenager, I found it easy to accept forgiveness, freely given. Ashes or not.

And Lent is a practice that I’ve always looked at as a bit over-the-top, or perhaps more likely an excuse for people to do things that they’ve meant to do for other reasons, ahem, give up bad foods (to lose weight before the summer) or give up television, social medias or other time consuming habits (something probably all of us could benefit from, and we all know it. ) As someone who grew up an outsider, Lent always struck me as a bit like New Years Resolutions – take two.

But this Wednesday of Mourning, I’m craving the stillness. I’m wanting to give up everything and just fast, face down, in waiting for the miracle of Easter.

And though I won’t have ashes on my forehead, the sentiment is truer for me now. I’m feeling the smudges of ash all over my thirty-something, busy, torn, rundown heart. I’m feeling the moment of defeat, of complete laying down of self.

But then, the words come back to me, from the first dream I have remembered in a long, long while.

It’s not just because I love Melanie. It’s because I promised to be for her, forever. 

Except, I hear them now as not from some subconscious dream version of my husband, but from a very real God who is always reaching to remind our weary hearts, in the midst of our busy and distracted lives – he is for us.

And he promised to be,  forever.

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