Inspired by and interconnected with my colleague and friend in ministry, Sarah Taylor Peck, I am beginning a Lenten discipline of writing about being shaped by God.
Today is Ash Wednesday. As a pastor, this service is one of my favorites to lead. As members come forward to receive the ashes on marked in the shape of a cross on their foreheads, I gaze into their eyes, see their faces. I am privileged to be close enough, with my thumb on their forehead, my fingers on the sides of their heads, to view the stories that each face tells.
I see the wrinkles between their eyebrows, which betray the stress they have struggled with. I see the crow’s feet around their eyes, made by years of love and laughter, tears and pain. I see the lines around their mouth, produced by smiling and frowning, eating and drinking. I see the tiny scars from pimples and stumbles. I see skin dry from the sun, sagging with old age. And sometimes, I see young faces, which are smooth and shine with possibility.
It is a blessed responsibility for pastors to be so near to another that we are able to read between the lines of the face, to say the holy words, “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” And in doing so, we see the image of God, the face shaped by God.
When I look in the mirror, I too, see the lines and wrinkles, stress marks and scars. All tell a story. And although it is easier some days than others, I too recognize that I was formed by God, and it is a child of God whose reflection I see.
On this day, we speak the words from the beginning of humanity. We recall how God breathed into our nostrils to give us life. And shortly thereafter, God reminds us that we are not to live forever. We remember that we mortals, shaped from the earth only to return to the very soil out of which we were made.
Humanity and mortality. Life and death. Beginning and end. The Alpha and Omega.
We have now begun our Lenten journey once again, following the one who was born without any wrinkles or scars, but whose body and face would come to tell of story of its own on the cross.
It is not an easy adventure to accept, but we do so with faces shaped by God. And we have the sign imprinted on our foreheads and in our hearts.
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.