I think when I left church this evening, it was probably with the same neat little cross of ash I saw on the foreheads of everyone else in the room. However, by the time I made it home, I’d managed to smear that tiny cross into an ugly black mess, one that invaded the borders of my hairline and dusted the end of my eyebrow. I caught my reflection in the mirror and was genuinely startled by my appearance.
Kyle and I had the privilege of having “dinner” tonight with Lena, who is fairly new to our home community. We initiated her, in our subtle little way, by telling her the no-holds-barred gorymessysinful stories of our lives. To her credit, she didn’t even flinch, despite the fact that Kyle and I can both be uncomfortably transparent about our sordid pasts. She’s a keeper, that one.
It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d told my story to someone who is practically a stranger, but it was the first time I’d told it on Ash Wednesday, with a physical mark on my face to remind me of my sin. When I got home and caught sight of myself in the mirror, it occurred to me that I often feel like this is what God should see when He looks at me: a fairly normal girl with a giant black smudge on her forehead, marking her squarely and publicly with darkness, with failure, with regret. As I washed off the mark and the makeup, I thought about how even without that mark, I was still seeing and judging my whole life when I considered my face. I look in the mirror and see acne scars, or the beginnings of wrinkles, or the circles under my eyes. I find the flaws and imperfections and I fixate on them. I convince myself that they are all anyone can see.
Here’s the point: I’m an idiot. Because when God looks at me, considers me, He doesn’t see black marks or sin or scars or circles. When God looks at me, what He sees is Jesus. He sees me forgiven, and holy, and whole, because He sent His son to bridge the gap, reverse the ugly, and take my place. No matter how many times I’m reminded, I forget it over and over and over again. He sees Jesus. Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard?
And now this old chorus is stuck in my head:
White as snow, white as snow
Though my sins were as scarlet
Lord I know, Lord I know
That I’m clean and forgiven
Through the power of your blood
Through the wonder of your love
Through faith in you I know that I can be
White as snow