Season serves as a reminder of who we really are

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2009

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Another Ash Wednesday has come and gone.

Another Lenten season has begun.

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And like every one before it, I started this season of fasting and repentance in the same space, listening to those familiar words echo through the church as Father Brandt Dick applied ashen crosses on parishioners’ foreheads.

In the past, I have concentrated on the word, “dust,” during the service.

Unexpectedly, I concentrated on another word this year.

“Remember,” he said.

“Remember what?” I thought.

“Remember that you are dust,” he said as I felt the grit of the ash rub across my forehead.

And then I wondered.

Would it be possible to remember that far back, to recall the moment when my life was breathed into the most basic elements of existence.

It sounds preposterous, doesn’t it?

And yet, as he repeated the words, I imagined what it would be like to actually remember that moment — to see the forces of God shape life out of dust.

Six months ago, formed out of the whirlwinds of Hurricane Gustav, a new life began for the Hillyer family.

I had always planned to start a family one day. In my 20s, my career took center stage. In my 30s, I was trying to get comfortable in my new role as a husband. No sooner had I looked back on my life, 40 was fast approaching.

The closer I reached that fourth decade, the more I thought that maybe having a baby was not in my future.

Learning that I would soon be a new father was one of the most unbelievable and exhilarating moments of my life.

When my wife and I first got a hint that we would be parents, I stood stunned. Now, I would be responsible for another life — to help this tiny infant grow into a loving, considerate and responsible individual.

Those are frightening thoughts for this father-to-be, who struggles daily just to keep himself on the right track.

Six months have passed; three or so more are left to go.

While most days are filled with excitement and joyous expectation, others make me wonder what have I gotten myself into.

That is what was going through my head when I suddenly remembered to go to church Wednesday night.

I had already missed the early morning and the noonday services and barely made it into the pew as the 6 p.m. service had started.

After receiving the ashes, I knelt and listened to the that word echoing in the sanctuary adding my own endings.

“Remember,” he said.

Remember that you are not in complete control of your life much less this little child.

Remember that you are human and that you will make mistakes.

Remember that you do not struggle alone and that you need family, friends and faith in God.

Remember that despite your human frailties, God has promised life through his son, Jesus Christ.

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Thanks be to God.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at or 601-445-3540.