Drive-through ashes on Ash Wednesday. Really? I have to admit my level of cynicism has been heightened lately. I expected people to be driving through the parking lot of our church, in a hurry, looking for a quick “fix” to their holy obligation. I worried that it could be perfunctory, perhaps even a bit trite. I was amazed and humbled that it was anything but, it was holy, it was precious, it was uplifting and it was profound.
Many found their way to us because they had seen on the news that we, along with other churches, were offering the “ashes to go” and drove quite a distance to participate. Others simply saw the sign and impulsively decided to turn in. Once they arrived and rolled down their window I simply asked them to take a deep breath with me and slow down. They needed a moment to summon their full presence and I needed a moment to gather myself and be fully present to them and not allow my prayers or our short liturgy to become rote. We stopped, we breathed, we opened our hearts and once we were ready, we began to pray.
For two to five minutes I leaned over to share a quick prayer with total strangers while they sat in their cars and received the imposition of ashes. For two to five minutes the world stopped, our eyes met, our hearts were touched and our spirits were lifted. Sometimes it was for longer because that prayer and those ashes “undid” something, let loose something and stories poured out, tears poured out and ultimately joy. Deep gratitude was exchanged in those moments. I was grateful for their presence and they were grateful for mine. We all showed up for one another. We showed up with intention and granted one another our full presence.
Isn’t that what it means to be Christ to one another? It just goes to show you that when we take the time to show up with our full presence and with shared intention it doesn’t take that long to establish deep connection. We didn’t discuss politics, or work, or what we watched on TV. We just emotionally pole vaulted over all that trivia and into the deep well of our being – one that was shared. In that moment, we experienced unity and I am profoundly grateful.