Posted on February 15, 2018 by Kendra Joyner Miller
I stood a little awkwardly as people rushed by, many avoiding looking me in the eyes, heads down. Maybe, they too were avoiding the cold… or maybe they were just avoiding the young woman in a cassock and purple stole holding ashes. “Good Morning,” I would call out to commuters putting on my friendliest most welcoming face. Some looked up.
“Would you like to receive ashes to mark Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent?” I love Ash Wednesday – I love it enough to wake up at 5:00 and wait outside by the train station in Chicagoland winter. I love the way that Ash Wednesday reminds us we are only human- limited and finite. So often we feel like we carry the world on our shoulders and Ash Wednesday reminds us we don’t have and really we can’t.
Some commuters thanked me coming forward to be reminded of their mortality and limitlessness- others said simple no’s- some kept walking- then a few replied “not today.” “Not Today”?! I was confused at first then tried not to laugh. Ash Wednesday only happens annually after all.
I can imagine these friendly faces were not sure what response would feel warm while also allowing for a quick escape from the crazy clergy. I am sure many of these commuters do not know what “Ash Wednesday” even is. Their effort was valiant and comical.
“Not today,” there was something profound for me in this response- a lesson these commuters were giving me. So often in my life I life I have scripted days- encounters- conversations. I go about with my agenda- a color coordinated calendar that buzzes- vibrates- and pops up to remind me of what is going on. I often joke “if it is not on my calendar it doesn’t exist”. But too often, when met with God among the ordinariness of my day I hurry along, gaze down mumbling, “Not today” and so often I miss out on opportunities of awe and wonder- moments of profundity- and meaning- moments of brokenness- and healing- Holy moments. This Lenten season I pray that I can look up more- and reply – “today”- “yes.”