While you’re focused on repentance and self-reflection, your pastor is most likely worrying about drawing a perfect cross on your forehead.
There’s a lot that goes into planning a worship service as important and meaningful as an Ash Wednesday service, but perhaps one of the most difficult things to get right is the ash consistency. Use too much oil and everyone’s going home with a cross-shaped break out-waiting-to-happen; use too little oil and everyone ends up with lowercase “r’s.” It can get ugly quickly.
Nonetheless, I’ve always experienced a certain joy when finger-painting with ashes, and not just because I’ve gotten to use peoples’ foreheads as my own personal canvas. The imposition of ashes is a sacred privilege, and it holds tremendous value even if the ashes aren’t prepared perfectly.
May God bless and be with all of us as we begin our Lenten journeys.