Just over a week ago was Ash Wednesday, a day I remember as a time to be humble. The priest would put ashes on people’s foreheads, saying “Remember, Man (sic), that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” (I actually noticed the ashes on President Joe Biden’s forehead when he gave his State of the Union address on Wednesday.)
Although the ashes were meant to make us humble about ourselves, I was always sort of “proud” of my humility. I tried to keep the ash mark on my forehead for as long as I could (no washing my face!), so that people in my neighborhood would ask me about it and I could “witness” for my faith. Then the next Sunday, when ashes were given out to those who hadn’t been able to make it to church on Wednesday, I’d go get them again. I wanted people to see how devout I was (in case they hadn’t seen me the Wednesday before)!
Because humility is such a tricky thing (and the fact that a lot of what passes for it is actually disguised pride), I thought I’d leave you with a little story from the Islamic tradition about a Muslim mullah (cleric) named Nasrudin–a seemingly stupid religious leader who imparts a lot of wisdom:
A great philosopher once made an appointment to discuss deep spiritual matters with Mullah Nasrudin, but when he got to Nasrudin’s door he found no one there. This philosopher was angry at being stood up and decided to let Nasrudin know how angry he was. So he picked up a piece of chalk and wrote on Nasrudin’s door: “Stupid idiot!”
When Nasrudin finally got home and saw the note, he rushed over to the philosopher’s house and said, “I’m so sorry I forgot our appointment. I apologize for not being home when I said I would be. Of course, I remembered our appointment as soon as I saw that you’d left your name on my door.”
Advice for all “stupid idiots” for this Lenten season.
peace and unrest,