Ashes, ashes. We all fall down.

In the UK, Ireland, South Africa and Australia, it’s usually sung:

Ring a-ring o’ roses,
A pocketful of posies.
a-tishoo!, a-tishoo!.
We all fall down.

In the States, it’s usually sung:

Ring around the rosey,
A pocketful of posies.
Ashes, ashes.
We all fall down.

You can check Wikipedia for other versions, some history, etc. including how there are rumors that this rhyme is “really” about one great plague or another. Interesting stuff, but not my point.

This rhyme came to mind — free association style — as I was thinking about today being Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent.

When I was growing up Baptist on the south side of Chicago I didn’t know much about Lent or Ash Wednesday except my Catholic friends (I had many) got ashes smudged on their foreheads and this meant they’d be looking forward with more anticipation to Easter that I would because it would be the end of their candy-free torture. It meant that Spring was right around the corner, with baseball and tulips. It meant that school would be out soon if we could just hold on.

Funny how in our relative ignorance this deal with ashes combined with the giving up of beloved habits during lent still served part their intended purpose — anticipation.

Today I was wishing that I had soot darkening my forehead in part because I long for an anticipation that is more expectant than what I’m feeling these cold days of February.

More than that, I think it is because of my own awareness of the very simple and very real fact that we all fall down. Maybe it’s because I was reading some blathering yammer-heads speaking about one classification of sinner with such venom and arrogance that I wanted to stand in solidarity with those who know they’ve got dirt on their foreheads and under their finger nails and on the back of their necks.

I want to sing “Ashes, ashes. We all fall down.”

Then I want to sing a greater song. One like “Say So” maybe.  One that reminds me that I am not left to deal with my sin on my own. I have been redeemed. I know this because I’ve read the very Word of God.

I’ve read Romans 3:23 in the Bible. I am fully aware that we are all sinners; we have all missed the mark. But I didn’t stop with verse 23; I kept reading.

23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26 New Living Translation)

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