There is a term in leadership development called “isolation processing.” This is when one feels all alone facing leadership issues. It is part of the process of knocking off the need to please everybody or be driven by other’s needs. It is allowing just you and what God is doing in you to stand apart, trusting Him and His process of building His greater influence in the leader.
Ash Wednesday reminds me of “isolation processing.” When we kneel to receive the ashes of death and hear the words “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” we can feel alone. We are reminded that we will die. If you look at all the marketing and advertising in the media, you are constantly told that if you buy this product, you will live forever. If you use this soap, all people will be drawn to you. If you put on this cologne, you will be successful. Whatever the pitch may be, it is a lie. No one has the guts to tell you that one day you will die. It can be a morbid thought; yet, on Ash Wednesday the church has the courage to say this.
But, wait. There is more.
The Christian life is embedded in the cross. The ashes are imposed upon us making the sign of the cross on our forehead. It is a reminder that yes, we will die and return to dust, but that is not the last word. Because of faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can and will live forever. We can experience that resurrected life now. Die to sin, selfishness and self-centeredness. Live into the new life of transformation that he is bringing about now by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Isolation processing” then becomes resurrection power. Ash Wednesday reminds us when we feel alone, even when we need to go through that experience solitude for leadership development, Christ, through his one, holy and apostolic church, is with us in sign, symbol and His transforming presence. We can face ourselves and live honestly, with hope in Him.