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Ashes of Creation

posted Feb 22, 2012, 6:46 PM by Jamie Washam

Ashes of Creation


Dr. Daniel Deffenbaugh of Hastings, Nebraska writes[1]:


As someone interested in ecology and the human connection to the natural world, I take great comfort in the symbolic notion that we have been created from the earth itself. Adam is in fact a play on words, for the first man was formed from adamah, the Hebrew word for the good, dark humus into which God sank his knees when breathing the breath of life into the human form beneath him. “And the man became a living being. …[and the] Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden to till it and to keep it” (Gen. 2:7b, 15).

Lent is surely Adam's season, for if the truth be told, his weaknesses, his fears, his very fallible nature, his grubby face, are still very much our own, and they will be until our return to the earth from which we were made. Lent might become for us a kind of “Christian New Year.” Like the High Holy Days in Judaism, it could be seen as a period of time in which we are all encouraged to consider not so much our deplorable sin but simply our vulnerable humanity and our need for connections to the earth, to God, and to our human community. It could be a time to focus on how our lives are shared with so many others, and how we often fail to affirm this simple fact in our words and deeds. More importantly, Lent might become an opportunity to reflect on how each of us lives the life of Adam who, though he was created from the rich soil of Eden, was nevertheless banished from it… but not from God.

…[this year], instead of deprivation I am going to try to think in terms of a kind of reflective celebration. Like Adam being brought forth from the earth, I want to wear on my forehead the ashes of creation. I want to take strange comfort in the fact that from dust I came and to dust I shall return. I want to look at those who are close to me and remember how much their lives have enriched my own. I will also remember how my lifestyle choices affect those whom I may never see, both human and nonhuman. 

Robert Frost once wrote, “Earth is the right place for love/ I don’t know where it is likely to go better.” There is wisdom in this. Our attention and our hope at this time of year cannot be in some heaven above but must be focused right here on the earth below, where the ashes of creation – the bittersweet paradox of human existence – are lived out in all their mystery, somewhere between suffering and salvation, just a little east of Eden.