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Faith Imagined: Crown or Ashes?

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

October 3, 2010

Crown or Ashes?

In 2 Samuel 13, the lovely princess, Tamar, was raped by her half brother. To show her disgrace she put ashes on her head (2 Samuel 13.19). Ashes represent self-disgust, humility or grief and they are a physical representation of the pain or guilt one feels.

I've had to wear ashes many times, but the problem came when I never washed them off. I would make a mistake, get hurt or feel sorrow, and I would smear that pain all of my body. The ashes affected every aspect of my life, and I couldn't be the princess God wanted to shine His glory through because I was all covered in dirt.

I used to feel like that was the way it was supposed to be until God confronted me. He said, "Is the blood on the cross not strong enough to wash you clean?" Hebrews 9.14 reads, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (NIV). I realized that whenever I clung unto my grief, I was telling God that He wasn't strong enough to redeem me. Also, I became useless in serving Him.

In Isaiah 61.3, God says that He will "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes." I don't think that we can quite fathom this exchange. We hand over our ashes and God gives us a beautiful crown instead? How could that be? It is only possible because God has an unquenchable and unshakable love for us. We live in a broken world where people get hurt, and God knows this. So He beautifully matches our shame with His grace to compensate for the sin surrounding us. However, we have freewill to receive God's grace or reject it.

God never promised this life would be easy, but He does offer us His grace in a broken world and blesses us when we love and obey Him (Deuteronomy 30.11-19). I don't know about you, but I'm tired of wearing my shame. I want to surround myself by beautiful crowns; so when I see Jesus at throne, I can throw them at His feet. Let us start gathering God's grace instead of our shame, so we can do the mighty work that God has planned for us.

"Stalwart walks in step with God; his path blazed by God, he's happy. If he stumbles, he's not down for long; God has a grip on his hand" (Psalm 37.23 MSG).

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Blogger Deborah Ann said...

Tamar's story of shame has touched me deeply. I did a Beth Moore Bible study and learned about the damaging effects of abuse, and continual dragging of shame, like garbage bags of accumulated trash.

You're right in saying our ashes need to be handed over to God. I know He doesn't want us to live like this. Thanks for this inspiring message - it's one I need to hear often, as I'm sure many women do.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Joanne Sher said...

Awesome reminder, Alisa. A crown for ashes? Wow.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Bernadine said...

How awesome that he will take all that is ugly in our lives and give us something beautiful instead.

3:57 PM  
Blogger lynnmosher said...

What an awesome post, Alisa! So comforting. Thank you! Blessings to you!

3:57 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

You said: "We hand over our ashes and God gives us a beautiful crown instead?" I think you're right that i's hard for us to fathom this exchange. I wonder if part of the reason it's hard for us to fathom that exchange is because we have a hard time removing the image of those ashes from our own minds. Then, like you said, those ashes can affect other aspects of our lives as well. I am so thankful that God has given me a crown of beauty! Hallelujah!

4:00 PM  
Blogger Stuff could always be worse said...

Love this reference to Tamar. We do wear our shame too long. Thanks for reminding me, to get my Crown!

4:16 PM  
Blogger Connie Mace said...

Oh Alisa, absolute truth...we smear the ashes and don't see how they can ever be removed...the ashes become a false comfort...disguising The True Comfort and True Healing.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

Like you, I often forget and wipe the ashes all over me not realizing that I don't have to live in shame or in pain.

Beautiful, Alisa!

6:30 PM  
Blogger Braley Mama said...

Amen sweet sister!!!!
Let's...♫ trade these ashes in for beauty, and wear forgiveness like a crown♪ ♫
Love it!

8:49 PM  
Blogger MTJ said...

Hi Alisa,

What an inspiring post! The question, "Is the blood on the cross not strong enough to wash you clean?" -- This demands that we answer whether Christ fully paid for all our grief and sins.

Blessings and peace.


10:27 PM  
Blogger The Unknowngnome said...

Woooohoooo!!!!! Alisa, you hit this out of the park! An excellent work of faith and belief! This is the walk!

"staunch and steadfast stalwart it stands"


1:58 AM  
Anonymous Angel @ Finding The Inspiring said...

Great post! A wonderful reminder that we are in the grip of His grace and do not have to wear the ashes of shame any longer. Thank you for sharing this powerful truth!

10:06 AM  
Blogger Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

these scriptures were part of our Breaking Free study that I am facilitating at church. I love the story of Tamar - it is so relevant even today and it is an awesome picture of beauty for ashes.

great post!

12:49 PM  
Blogger Wanda said...

The things God chooses to exchange with us are unfathomable. He definitely gets short-changed in the deal.

1:53 PM  
Blogger From The Heart Online said...

I've never really understood the beauty for ashes thing (not that I really dug into it...)

"We live in a broken world where people get hurt, and God knows this. So He beautifully matches our shame with His grace to compensate for the sin surrounding us." Excellent, beautiful! I pray this sinks deep into my heart that I would choose His grace instead of wearing my shame.

Amen, amen!!!

2:00 PM  
Blogger May said...

Praise the LORD and thanks to you for delivering a powerful message to us in this post.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

"Let us start gathering God's grace instead of our shame, so we can do the mighty work that God has planned for us."

Powerful, powerful words Alisa. It's time for us to stand up and understand that it is in God that we have hope and strength. We are "mighty" in Christ. Once again you have inspired. I feel like shouting!

3:46 PM  
Blogger Lynda Young said...

Great reminder that Christ has washed us clean -- not just of sin, but of shame as well.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Patrina's Pencil said...

I can't be the warrior Princess He's called me to be - if I'm presenting Him - with a dirty me. His blood IS transforming - His grace is sufficient to wash me CLEAN! Amen!

Thanks for sharing your wisdom

Patrina <")>><
Warrior Princess

11:49 AM  
Blogger Dean Spencer said...

Alisa -

I have often felt shame and guilt over my sin. I've even wondered if I should put real ashes on my head because of my own disgust.

I've had to convince myself many times that God's grace is greater than my sin. I like the verse you quote, Isaiah 61:3 where He will "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes."

If we think about it, if we wallow in self-pity, we're saying that God's grace isn't enough. I don't want to be guilty of that too!

One thing I remind myself is that today is a new day. I can't do much about the past, but I can do something about today. I can move forward.

I agree. I am tired of wearing my shame. This great insight into God's grace. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless!

10:07 PM  
Blogger Toyin O. said...

Great Post Alisa; Keep wearing that crown with your head high knowing the righteousness of Christ will always be your glory.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Tammi said...

This was a blessing to my heart today! It's such a refreshing encouragement to trade in the ashes of disgrace and remorse for the crowns of grace and forgiveness ~ and gain a life of usefulness for the Lord. Thanks so much for this ON TIME reminder to my heart today!

8:02 AM  
Blogger Karen Lange said...

Good post. You always give me something to ponder. It's a blessing:)

8:27 PM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

Hi Alisa: Grief is something that has been discussed to some degree on my site with the passing of Christian Singer/Songwriter David M. Bailey. Your prayers mean so much to me and to David's family. I am reflecting on the passages you have so thoughtfully included here. Yes, His Grace is sufficient! AMEN!

1:50 AM  
Blogger Together We Save said...

Another beautiful devotion! Thank you.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous said...

Alisa just visited your blog for the first time. Awesome devotion/article about ashes/crowns. Love, Love, Love it! For years, even though I had been saved by His grace...hung onto some ashes of my own from shame from years back...Over the past two years God has helped me to forgive myself and He has forgiven me in Christ Jesus! There is such freedom in forgiveness and living in the Grace and Mercy of our Lord. Thanks for this. Come visit me sometime.

4:15 PM  
OpenID bluecottonmemory said...

When it came time to serve, I had always wanted to serve in a divorce care ministry. As a child of divorce, I wanted to help others grow beyond their dysfunction and hurt. However, too many programs focus on the hurt, the pain, those ashes you are talking about. They do not refocus on where these kids want to be, what kind of life they want to have. Sadly, our culture likes to dissect what needs to be handed over to God in exchange for that beautiful crown. I am so glad I traded my ashes for a crown!

Your points are always so cleanly, beautifully made - messages that just go straight to the heart:)

(As a result of my experience, I created my own program, "Standing at the CrossRoads.")

6:56 PM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

Yes, it's encouraging to know that God is in the midst of our circumstances and stands ready to guide us! Amen!!

10:08 AM  

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