What’s the Deal with the Dot?

A coworker friend of mine practices Jainism, an ancient religion somewhat similar to Hinduism.  Over many lunch hours, I’ve learned a lot about her beliefs, and she has grown curious to learn about mine.  She was thrilled on Ash Wednesday because, like her, I had a dot on my forehead.  So I had the joy of talking with a curious listener about my journey of participation in the Triune Life.

Below, I attempt to re-create that conversation, though you can be assured that in the actual talk, my grammar wasn’t nearly this good:

Surabhi: What does your dot mean?

John: The dot is made with ashes, ashes being an ancient symbol of mourning death and lamenting evil…

Surabhi: I see… You are sad about Jesus dying.

John: Well, that’s part of it…but it’s more about God feeling sad about us. Jesus, his Papa, and their Spirit made you and me and everything; they love us and want us to enjoy life with them.  But we don’t know Papa’s love very well, so we’re miserable, and as a result we end up hurting ourselves and each other a lot.

Surabhi: [Nods with understanding and agreement]

John: Jesus and his Papa and their Spirit are heartbroken about how miserable we are and how broken the world is, and they don’t want us to be alone in our sadness.  We’re Papa’s babies, and if we’re going to live in sadness, he wants to be with us.  Like how when your kids cry at night, you go to be with them and hold them until they calm down.

Surabhi: Of course.

John: And that’s why Jesus came to be a human being, just like us-so that God could be WITH us in our pain.  So Jesus suffers with us, but he also shares with us something we don’t have-knowledge of our Papa.  Deep down in his soul, the man Jesus knew Papa’s love, and that changed everything for his experience of life.  The man Jesus experienced human suffering, but he also experienced divine HOPE, his sure knowledge that Papa is with us, putting right everything that’s gone wrong.  And the Holy Spirit is now busy sharing Jesus’ hope with you and me and everyone.

Surabhi: Okay…

John:  And that’s where the dot comes in.  I put ashes on my head because God is sad about the evil in the world, and so am I.  Because Jesus and Papa and their Spirit feel the pain of the world, I feel it too.  And that sorrow will come to a sharp point on Good Friday when we remember that our world is so messed up that we killed Jesus, the one decent human being we’ve ever met.  But even while we’re grieving over our pain and brokenness, we also know that Easter is coming up in April.  We share in Jesus’ sure hope that suffering and death don’t have the last word.  That when Jesus rose from the dead, that was the first step of God’s conquest of death, a conquest that will someday be complete.

Surabhi: So you’re sad, but not THAT sad.

John:  Yes.  Our Scriptures say that “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Surabhi:  Hmmm, I like that…Thanks for explaining all that…

John: Sure.  I get a lot out of our talks too; thanks for listening… Well, I suppose we should get back to work…

~ by John Stonecypher

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