"Before God built me I was flat," my son said one night before bed.
"Then what happened?" I asked.
"God breathed on me and I got big."
I had never previously thought about the human dimension before the whole God breathing into humanity's nostrils thing. Sure, it always struck me as an odd choice on God's part. I simply glossed over the obscure imagery as though it was normal for all divine-human relationships.
"Then the God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).
Could you imagine if that was how they taught CPR? My son was right, it was a little silly.
I frequently tell people, "my kids are the greatest theologians I know.” They point out the obvious in ways that confront previous held assumptions. They expose truths and mysteries about faith and biblical story that students of Scripture and professional church folk, like myself, have missed despite our degrees and fancy titles.
Like the time my daughter asked, when she saw a picture of Jesus’ 12 disciples, “why are all of Jesus’ friends boys? Where are the girls?"
We then found the story in Mark 5 of the little girl who was raised from the dead. The parable instantly became her favorite.
In these child-like musings, my children teach me. And when my son spoke of being built, as though we were balloons waiting to be inflated, I could not help but think about Ash Wednesday and the beginnings of our Lenten journey.
Ash Wednesday is a reminder that our existence hinges on the Creator. We are not independent beings.
"We do not merely regard ourselves as bound; we are bound. Our own existence stands or falls with the existence of God." (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.1)
Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our finitude and dependency upon Another. We are bound to the God who made us. We are bound to one another. The ashes remind us that we are even bound to the creation itself.
And when we here the words, “remember you are dust, to dust you shall return,” we are reminded of our need for God over and again to breath into us. We depend upon God’s Spirit, for without the breath of the Creator we remain flat.