Today is Ash Wednesday, an important day in the life of the church and an important day in my own life as well.
In 2003, I sat in an Ash Wednesday service in the upper room of our student center at my college. It was a nice, contemplative service, but I was wrestling with questions of the future, my own worth, what God was calling me towards. I was surrounded with people from the campus ministries group I was very active in, people who were an excellent support network to ask those questions around. I left that service wiping tears from my eyes, with not much of an understanding as to why. A week later, I met a group of people on a traveling music ministry and ended up joining with that ministry the following year.
In 2006, I had just started seminary, I had just started teaching, just started in ministry at my home church. We held the Ash Wednesday service in the small chapel, a room that we also held VBS song time in, a room that I was familiar with my whole life. Our senior minister was on sabbatical and I had been asked to lead the service. In that room were people that had known me for decades, my parents, people I worked together with so often. The act of leading prayers of repentance, the act of putting ashes on their foreheads, I tend to think these were some of the moments that affirmed my gifts and call, starting the steps of leaving professional towards ministry.