ashes, ashes


“ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

It’s a song we know from childhood – Ring Around the Rosie.

I was curious as to the meaning or origin of this song, so I turned to good ‘ole Google and checked out Wikipedia. I learned a few things:

  • this song – or “nursey rhyme, folksong, and playground signing game” first appeared in print in 1881, but a similar version was already being sung to the current tune in the 1790s – almost a century before
  • it is also known as, or called, Ring a Ring o’ Roses.
  • “Urban Legend says the song originally described the plague, specifically the the Great Plague of London, or the Black Death, but folklorists reject this idea.”
  • there are several different versions or variations of the song in different parts of the world, and there are different language translations as well

There are many other interesting facts I learned about this song, and yet I think these four hold significance and meaning.

Today is Ash Wednesday – the mark of a 40 day period leading up to Easter (not counting Sundays) that mimimicks or reflects the 40 day period Jesus spent fasting in the desert where He was tempted by Satan.

Many believers give something up as a sort of “fast” to remind them to draw near to God as they practice enduring temptation as Jesus did. (But I believe we can also receive similar benefits/spiritual growth through a “reverse fast” of sorts where we add in something – a practice, a time with the Lord – to intentionally fix our focus on Him.)

There are interesting correlations between this song and Ash Wednesday –

  • “a similar version was already being sung” — God has already won the war, declared the victory, written His song long ago. He’s the original author of His song – His promise that He has declared victory over death
  • there may be other names for religious denominations, but the truth – the main idea, the basis of the song is the same – it’s Jesus. Call it what you will, your denomination – your version of “the song” but Jesus is the inspiration, the main idea, the center of it all
  • it’s possible this song was originally written – inspired by – a plague. something that has now brought much joy and laughter to children across the globe originated from something dark and terrible. When we allow Him to, God can take something dark – a trial, a sorrow, a pain – and use it to bring beauty, light, and glory to His name and His Kingdom

    Isaiah 61:3 says the Lord has called us “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.”

    The Lord is able to take the ashes of our lives – the things leftover from the fires through which we have walked – and create from them something so beautiful.

    He brings blessings from our battles.

    He rescues us from darkness and delivers us into His marvelous light.

    He turns our sorrow into joy, our mourning into dancing, our trials into ministry.

    He brings beauty from ashes.

  • there are several different versions of the Bible – this “written version of the song” – as well as various languages into which it has been translated. It spans all time, all space, all variation. Hidden behind its seeming discrepancies and differences lies one singular, unchanging truth:

    that Jesus Christ is Lord

This Ash Wednesday, would the words of this song ring in our heads:

“ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

and would they ignite in su a fire of joy, found in the hope of the song we know to be true – that when we fall it’s really just an opportunity to position us to our knees, beneath our Sovereign Lord, where we can allow His scarred hands to lift us up, to help us to stand – and not only to stand by to SING – His praises, His promise, His perfect peace to all.

“We fall down, we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus.” – Chris Tomlin, We Fall Down

He gives us a crown of beauty instead of ashes; would we offer it right back up to Him, by laying down our lives, and by being His song to others who may be struggling to hear it.

Would we join hands in a circle together, allowing all the dark and terrible places in our lives to be overshadowed by His great and marvelous light, His joyous song that brings us laughter and joy and delight.

“Into marvelous light I’m running, our of darkness, out of shame. By the cross You are the Truth, You are the Light, You are the Way. Lift my hands and spin around; see the Light that I have found. Oh, marvelous light, marvelous light…” – Chris Tomlin, Marvelous Light

. . . . . .

I was searching for a photo to use for this post when I remembered that last year on Ash Wednesday I had a wedding dress fitting. I snapped a photo of a couple of different veils in choosing which one I liked – and thus commemorated this moment standing there being fitted for my wedding gown, prepared for my wedding day, dressed in white.

Waiting for Clay held many days, times, seasons of darkness. A reflection of the dark times we all experience. And yet — there is great hope – reflected by this image. Of course there was hope for me in what was to come on my wedding day with Clay and what that meant – that I would get to finally spend forever with someone, and not just someone: my best friend, my greatest companion, this true gift from God that I had so longed for over so many years.

And yet this is not even nearly a picture that does justice the greatest hope of all: that we have the hope of a “wedding” to come with Christ in Heaven. It’s right there in the pages of Revelation where it tells us there will be no more death or dying, no more darkness, no more tears. For this song – the Bible – tells us that Jesus Christ will wipe every tear from our eyes, that we will feast in celebration of our wedding day and our eternal union with Christ in Heaven where we will reign as co-heirs high above it all.

Would the image of that crown on our heads fill us with all hope as we live each day on this earth that can so often seem all too covered with ashes. A crown of beauty is coming, my friends. And not only that, but we have the opportunity, the chance, the gift to take hold of it starting today. For God did not only send His Son that we might have eternal life, but that we might have life – and have it to the full – today.

I will gladly fall down to be lifted up by that hope, to be used a picture, an example, of His truth, for His Kingdom, and for His glory.

“Let your name be lifted higher, be lifted higher…” – Hillsong, Stronger 

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1 Response

  1. Bailee says:

    Going through the book of Mark with my brother as our weekly bible study/brother-sister bonding time and this very much reminded me of Mark chapter 7 in which Jesus addresses the Pharisees and Jews in regards to their obsession with cleanliness of food/body, etc. Mark 7:8-15, 21-23. Just my thoughts…

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