How long do you wear your ashes?

How long do you wear your ashes?

Are you an ashes wearer, or an ashes wiper? How long do you wait before washing the ashes off?

When I was a teen, I'd feel guilty wiping it off at the end of the day because I was afraid that if I wiped it off too soon I'd lose the spiritual benefit.

In college, I'd forget I had ashes under my bangs because my brain constantly working on homework and papers and assignments, even in church.

Now, I'm a wiper. I gladly received the ashes from an Ashes to Go when I got to my L stop, but then I wiped it after crossing the street for the bus.

Sacreligious, or no?

Mainly, I remember the whole exhortation to pray in a closet, to not stand on street corners wearing sackcloths and ashes--so wearing it for any longer than a few minutes or the duration of a service is embarrassing. Not embarrassing because it identifies me as a Christian, but embarrassing because it puts my beliefs right out there in the open, as if I was in sackcloths on street corners praying loudly to God. It puts me on par with the Pharisees, it feels like, and that's not my thing.

Also, there's the flip side here--I'm only going through the motions anyway. A long time ago I wrote about the dragon on the side of the road.

I used to feel faith a lot more keenly. It used to be a refuge--in some ways, an unhealthy one. If only I prayed enough, dad would change. Breaking a Lenten resolution was akin to breaking one of the 10 Commandments because it was breaking a promise to God and therefore, led me to hell. Take the replica crown and jam it on my head so the pain could save me. Things like that.

I thought about a resolution this year, but I don't think I'm there yet. It's too dangerous that I'll dive headlong into a shallow pool of OCDishness and guilt and fear of hell for it to be any beneficial to me.

Maybe someday. But it is not this year.

Meanwhile, I will go through the motions.

I've got the ashes, and I've wiped them off.

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