Let me make this clear: I've been attending church since before I can remember, and my family attended church for a few years before that. I've always been a church kid, with church parents, and a church sibling and now a church sibling-in-law. I was involved in sunday school in elementary, youth group in middle to high school. I've done Bible studies and I've done chapels in private school.
And yet, tonight...at age 21...was my first Ash Wednesday service.
I honestly have no explanation for why I've never attended an Ash Wednesday service before. I think I never knew about them until they had passed me by, I'm not sure. But tonight was my very first.
I was intending to go to my regular church for Ash Wednesday, but ended up going to the Methodist Church near where I work because we had a staff meeting up until the service time started, and there was no way I'd make it to my regular church in time.
However! The service was beautiful, and though it made me a little embarassed at first, I opted to have the ashes put on my forehead (one part gutsiness, and one part knowing it was important). Obviously it was a time for silence, contemplation, and preparation for what lies ahead in the church calendar.
My regular church is not liturgical, nor is it especially traditional (since it's a nondenominational church) but sometimes a little tradition and liturgy is nice. It can ground you into the rich history of where we came from as a group of believers, and you feel interconnected in a special way with those who worship--past and present. Lovely.
On the way home, I was treated to some old-time jazz and blues on KEXP, which...for some reason...brought the spirituality of the evening full-circle for me. You forget until you really listen to jazz and blues the passion behind the words, the licks, the rolls, the unconventionality that defined an era. Those fantastic old voices, a touchstone to the past...yes!
Tonight has been all about touchstones, it seems. Whether "Lord have mercy" or "My woman ain't comin' back no more", there's something necessary about connection to our past. Sometimes I'm afraid I'll forget, until Richie Havens busts out, "Trouble In Mind" and I lose myself in a swirl of yesterdays.
Don't worry. It'll come back to you. All you have to do is listen.