I've never been one to observe Ash Wednesday before but I went to the service at Grace on Wed night and had a really cool experience, it took me a few days to figure out what exactly it was that caught me so off guard though.
The main theme of the service was silence. You enter the sanctuary in silence, and exit in silence. This really set the tone seeking a personal and real meeting with God. We read scripture together, sang together, listened to Dave about why we were there and the significance of why we honor the 40th day before Easter.
Then you have the option of having an ash cross placed on your forehead. I had never done this and to be honest hadn't planned on it. To be even more honest I pretty much did it at first just to fit in, kind of like communion when you feel like shit and your heart isn't repentant, but you still take it anyways. The way I had understood the significance of it was we are acknowledging our own sin and our desperate need for forgiveness. We are saved only through Christ on the cross coupled with him rising from his earthly grave and his ascension into heaven to sit at the throne of God. In historical times those repenting would wear sack cloth and physically show their need for forgiveness. I understood the ash to be a similar symbolic act for us modern Christians.
The minute Dave touched my forehead with the ash I felt ashamed.
Everyone could see my sin, why is it that some simple act like that could expose so dramatically my need for repentence. We so desperately need Jesus and our lives are designed such that we believe we don't need Him. The last few days have been really humbling for me as i've been contemplating my brokeness. It's time to stop living as if we don't need forgiveness and start living every day in the light of his redemption.