“Mr. Cody! Mr. Cody!” was the cry I heard as soon as I walked into Patchwork Quilt, three day a week service site last Wednesday afternoon. “What happened to your head? Are you okay? Does it hurt?”
Admittedly it did look like my forehead was bruised, a big black and grey patch claiming a prominent space on my brow. It was Ash Wednesday and the majority of the Church marked the beginning of a 4o day journey to Easter by smearing ashes and telling one another to repent and be faithful to the Gospel. The majority of my young scholar-friends at Patchwork Quilt do not come from liturgical churches and so it must have looked absolutely foreign to them to see a bunch of ashes smeared on my forehead.
I anticipated their confusion and the questions that they might ask. I thought back to my own childhood, of my experiences being raised in a Christian tradition that did not celebrate Lent or Ash Wednesday. I thought back to the evangelical church of my childhood, to my hometown of 5,000 or so people two hours from any major city.
“It reminds me that I’m human.” I told my little scholar-friends. “That sometimes I make mistakes, but God never stops loving me, no matter how much I mess up.”
These young people–whose lives are dramatically different than my own, looked up at me with knowing in their eyes. And then went back to dancing the “Dlow Shuffle” (prounounced dee-low, apparently…)
And I paused to give thanks for their own humanity. For the mistakes that they’ve made, for the mistakes that they’ll continue to make, and for the fierce, tenacious love of God that will encircle these little people for the rest of their lives, no matter how much sin tries to get in the way.