To steal a line from Elizabeth Keaten's blog, http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com, which I am going to chop up in this way;
"Yes, the ashes are a sign of our mortality - the finiteness of human existence - which is the reason to repent. ...... "I always brush off the ashes from my forehead, anyway," she said. "Really?" I asked, "Why is that?" "Well," she said, "I've always thought of the ashes as the church's need to remind us of our mortality ...... as well as our sins. ....We may hold the pencil, but God holds the erasure."
"I always brush off the ashes from my forehead, anyway," for how many years have I, have some of us walked out of church wearing our smudge of ashes with pride. To keep our 'mark' like some badge of honor, some sign of our duty as one of those Christians. Never mind that our 'mark' was put on our foreheads at some evening service so we did not have to keep it very long. But we would carry this sign proudly. If I had gone to morning or noon service, I would forget the mark was on my forehead until someone would tell me I had a smudge or I would notice it when I looked into a mirror; and then I would wipe it off.
Elizabeth's post was about how much she uses a pencil instead of a pen and why. And of course, a pencil has an erasure which we tend to use quite often. And so I love the phrase, "We may hold the pencil, but God holds the erasure." God can wipe our slate clean for us as many time as He need to forgive and erase.
But for how long do we carry a grudge on our shoulder against someone. Why do we carry the burden of guilt, or of hurt on our own shoulder's; even after we have been forgiven, even after we have forgiven ourselves. Why is it so hard to erase hard feelings we might have against our 'brother'? Why do we carry around someone else's baggage when we know in our hearts it's not their's, but our feelings against or about them.
At our recent Diocesan Convention, we erased a prohibitive moral canon which has kept a lot of good candidates from the priesthood, because they were gay and in a loving, wholesome relationship. We worked hard to change people's thinking about what this canon has done to so many of our gay brother's and sister's within the church. We were able to erase the fear and caution most people held which changed people's hearts. But just as some pencil marks are made worse by a bad erasure, or marking made by a pen, we could not completely erase the words from some people's minds and hearts. Some of the people in that room will continue to have light pen or pencil marks on their shoulders, or foreheads even after God has used his erasure.
I hope that during this Lenten season I might 'work' on a few people to seek God's help in erasing or clearing off the chip on their shoulders, as it were.