[Jennifer Ogilvie is the Director of The Methodist Day School at First United Methodist Church, Missouri City, Texas. Today, she guests on my blog and shares about Ash Wednesday and children.]
The two somehow don’t “go together” due to the subject matter. Death, dying, sin. Not typical topics we share with little ones.
Ash Wednesday. The day we are reminded of our mortality. The day we begin our journey toward the cross. The day when we acknowledge, once again, that we are a mess.
How do we share the message of Ash Wednesday with those who are freshest from God? “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.” Heady stuff when one is three. Hmmm. Who am I kidding? Heady stuff when one is in the middle of her life!
I remember my daughter’s first Ash Wednesday experience at the tender age of four. I did my best to explain to her what the Lenten Season meant, was, should be. At the time, we were trying to help her stop a habit…thumb-sucking. She decided on her own that she would give up thumb-sucking for Lent… and for forever. As I knelt beside her after she received her ashes, her fervent prayer was well-intentioned. In one swift breath she prayed, “Jesus, I know you love me. You died on the cross. Thank you. We will all be in heaven someday. I love you so much, Jesus. Please help me stop sucking my thumb. Amen.” She left my side to return to the pew. I took a couple of extra minutes for my personal prayer. As I left the prayer rail and headed back to the pew, I saw her. Left thumb tucked neatly in her mouth. Well, THAT didn’t take long!
Did she understand Ash Wednesday…Lent…giving up something that stands in the way of your relationship with Christ? Probably not…totally. However, our faith journey is just that. A journey. We have to start somewhere!
So, today our church offered that place to start: an Ash Wednesday service designed for young children. Moms, dads, grandparents, big kids, preschoolers, toddlers, and babies, complete with lots of wiggles and kid-noise, filled the chapel. Jeremy, one of our pastors, talked about dirt. He reminded us of the creation story and how God blew life into dirt and made a man. “Who was the first man?” A big kid raised his hand and answered “Adam!” We were reminded that we sin and don’t always do what God likes. Jeremy took the dirt and made mud. And with the mud, he painted a cross. We received an ashen cross…most of the children had it placed on their hand. They gazed upon that cross, studying that “muddy” mark. Intently. They know it’s special. They know they are special. And they know God loves them.
Thanks be to God.