I do not remember exactly how old I was the first time I attended an Ash Wednesday service. However, I know there was a lot happening that I did not understand at the time. For instance, when I went forward and my father put ashes on my head, I honestly thought he was telling me to remember to dust my room when I got home. “Remember you are dust,” is, I am pretty sure, what he said. Remember to dust, is what I heard.
It might have made more sense if I had paid more attention to the scripture reading, his sermon or event the instructions he surely gave before the imposition of the ashes. But for me, this was all just new, strange and very intriguing. Plus it helped that he put some dust on my forehead to remind me to dust once I got home. When I got back to my pew, I realized a lot of other people forgot to dust as well. Everyone I saw in church that night had that same reminder, “Remember to dust.”
Dusting is still one of my least favorite household chores. It’s not that I do not see the benefit, it’s just that it takes so long, you have to move stuff around, and even once you have gone over an area, you can almost always spot a smudge or a stray spot of dust left behind. Remember to dust. If you forget and let it build up, it’s just that much harder to clean up later on. The more dust that accumulates, the more difficult it is to get rid of.
Maybe dusting is not a bad analogy to what we are trying to say on Ash Wednesday. Remember to clean out the sin. Remember that as soon as you think you have it all wiped up, there are going to be stray marks and sins floating around you. It’s a never ending vigil. As long as we are human, as long as we are dust, we have to remember to dust.
Rember you are dust and to dust you shall return. So, in the meantime, remember to dust.