Google it (which I went ahead and did for you) and you'll find a myriad of things: biblical references, pictures of tattoos, self help websites--you get the point.
I've always wondered "what is all this talk about ashes and why do I have to trade beauty for it?!"
It's origins actually come from a verse in the Bible. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 61~
I will bestow upon them a crown of beauty instead of ashes....
To me it's always been such a beautiful verse and it brings great meaning to my life. I wanted to seek out some depth to what this verse means and the background behind it.
You see in ancient times, in times of mourning, grief, pain, even death; a person would sprinkle or rub ashes all over their head to symbolize what they were going through. It would represent many things; a time of rebirth of spirit, of purification.
It was also a symbol of dust--
The dust, occupying the lowest place and trodden under foot, might well symbolize the downcast state of the afflicted; and, as in misfortune....
But it doesn't end there.
It's been written--
...to give them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. There we have two contrasted pictures suggested: one of a mourner with grey ashes strewed upon his disheveled locks, and his spirit clothed in gloom like a black robe; and to him there comes One who, with gentle hand, smooths the ashes out of his hair, trains a garland round his brow, anoints his head with oil, and, stripping off the trappings of woe, casts about him a bright robe...
It's an incredible description of being made new. Of being taken from the lowest place possible then being wrapped in comfort and being brought back from a place of disgrace and sorrow.
After that sorrow, God gives joy. Joy in abundance. Joy that can't come from anything you draw out on your own. It's joy despite your circumstances. It's joy that is transforming.
When I've seen someone illuminating this joy, overflowing in others; what I've seen is a person who has gone through the fire, the pain, the hurt and is now on the other side.
There is a certain beauty that only comes from going through pain, hurt or sorrow. It's a beauty that radiates from within, it reaches out to others and it cries, "I am made NEW." I am made new because of my experience. I am made better.
My sister in law, Lindsey, emanates this. She has been through fire, through hell these past 8 years. Yet, if you are one of the fortunate ones like I am who gets to be within her influence, you would never know it. She shines with grace, love and giving spirit to everyone in her circle. She's a gifted photographer, you can find her work HERE and she sees the beauty in others and captures it in her pictures. You can see how she connects with each and everyone she photographs. I'm blessed to be her sister and friend.
I know she would be the first to tell you it wasn't easy. That it was the most difficult thing she has ever experienced. She will tell you the only way she made it through was with the joy she was given. That she used joy to make it through each day. That her experience made her better. That it gave her a perspective on pain she never had before. How she can relate and love and care for others in way she never had before.
Her pain changed her and she was given a crown of joy.
Can you relate to this?
Have you been through the pain, the ashes?
Are you on the other side or have you yet found that joy?
How has it made you new?