Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday: A Study in Contrasts

Twenty-four hours separate one of the most outlandish global parties and one of the most somber religious observances on the Christian calendar.

Many of the same folks show up for both.

Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday”, is the last hurrah for those who observe Lent-a time of reflection, self-denial and preparation before Resurrection Sunday.

It’s a giant party-food, fellowship and fun-a wonderful way to celebrate the blessings of this life.

Ash Wednesday, by contrast,  is an invitation to remember that “from dust you came and to dust you will return”.  

None of us get out of here alive.


Even where the Gospel is preached every Sunday there are those who forget this life is hard and often full of pain and suffering.

If your experience so far has looked more like Mardi Gras and less like ashes, well, then-be thankful.

But don’t be deceived.

“From dust you came and to dust you will return.”

For some of us it was a similar twenty-four hour turnaround that upset our world, tossed us headfirst into the waves of sorrow and burned that truth into our hearts, not just dabbed it on our foreheads.

Sometimes I feel excluded from fellowship with the saints because I can’t join in the celebratory spirit of a worship service.

When the hymns only focus on our “victory in Jesus”  my heart cries, “Yes-but perhaps I won’t see the victory this side of heaven.”

When the congregation claps and dances to feel-good songs that celebrate the sunshine but ignore the rain, my eyes swim with tears because I know the reality of a downpour of sorrow.

Because sometimes praise is a sacrifice.


Church needs to be a place where we can share the pain as well as the promise that Christ will redeem it.

Jesus Himself said, “in this world you will have trouble”.

So I can’t claim allegiance to the Church of the Perpetually Cheerful.

I want to create space for the hurting and broken and limping and scared.

How about a new denomination that acknowledges the truth that life is hard.

Instead of the “Overcoming Apostolic Praise-filled Ministers of Eternal Optimism” I would name it theTrudging But Not Fainting Faithful.

By all means enjoy the “Fat Tuesdays” in life.

Drink them in, dance, celebrate! 

But remember that it can change in a heartbeat.

And that it HAS changed for many of us.

There is hope.

All is not lost.

But in the meantime, it’s hard.


Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

13 thoughts on “Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday: A Study in Contrasts”

  1. A very good look at the contrast. Last Feb 22 was a big celebration because it was 2-2-22. It was also the one year marker for losing Tara. Since I am a teacher the day was turned into a celebration. I stayed home from work. The day was incredibly hard. So in contrast this Feb 22 marking year 2 without my girl falls on Ash Wednesday. Perfect day for it. In this world you will have trouble but take hard I have overcome the world. Ashes will be placed on my forehead. My heart will be breaking . I will be grateful for the cross. I appreciate your openness and willingness to share how you feel. You are voice for me and so many others. God bless you .


  2. The church of the Perpetually Cheerful! That just cracked me up, but only because I’ve now walked this road of child loss for coming up on 9 years, ( you Melanie are only a few short months ahead of me. ) and I know how wrong and unbiblical that theory is! Always your writings touch something deep in me and I feel God whispering to me. Thanks. Nancy, Dale’s mama, forever 18


  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences here, painful as it must be, but blended so well with wisdom and the love of Christ. My Mardi Gras was Oct. 17 – a celebration of our recent move as newly minted empty nesters that included music and food, family and friends. Less than 12 hours later we learned that our son, who had struggled with mental illness for years, had taken his life. All ashes now. It broke my heart, tore through the fabric of my faith. But your consistent words of support and encouragement keep bringing me back to God, and I am so grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. An Ash Wednesday kind of life…pretty much sums it up again, perfectly, Melanie. I agree with the other commenters. I believe we will be great friends in heaven. God has gifted you with the ability to speak what is pressing on our hearts so intensely.


  5. It’s been 20 years since our last Mardi Gras. Hope and her family lived in New Orleans for 6 years before moving to TX. We enjoyed the parties and observing people acting out like tomorrow would never come…their day of acceptable sin, Fat Tuesday…the day before repenting. I watched a man dressed in white robes, Wearing Jesus Sandles….carrying a cross through Bourbon St. His long brown hair covering most of his face from the weight of the cross. His followers were handing out small white papers….reminding everyone to repent on Ash Wednesday at St. Louis Cathedral. I attended mass on the following day…the lines were long and deep to receive our ashes and a personal few words from the priest…..his words to me…Learn to Forgive. I didn’t take the message lightly…that was 1997. Forward to February 6, 2015…the day our beautiful Joy took her own life…the horror we faced from that day on…Learn to Forgive kept surfacing….forgiving myself that blame that I couldn’t save her, forgiving her for her action to leave her family…then again, the anxiety she suffered that we knew nothing about….the med to help her was destroying her…the allergic reaction. Then, forgiving God for allowing this to happen to Joy…she walked faithfully all her life for Him….He didn’t save her in her earthly form. I believe our Lord has taken her tears and pain…cast them aside….is now holding her through eternity. His Promise. His forgiveness speaks to my heart.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Oh Melanie. I so look forward to meeting you in Heaven, if not before. I think we could be great friends. You so often speak my heart in better words than I can.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Our family has been good friends with another family for many years-in fact, this couple came right away and stayed with me the day I got the news about Dominic until my family could all get home.

      Anyway, we live about 1 1/2 hours apart which doesn’t seem far until you factor in large families, farm duties, work schedules and general life! So every time we got together and had to part, I would always think, “One day there will be no more distance/time/duties to separate us from one another! What a glorious day that will be!”

      Now, of course, the idea of no good-byes is all the more precious to me.

      I can’t wait to meet all the brave parents who are choosing to lean in and love even with broken hearts along this broken road.

      Thank you for encouraging me in this journey. It helps me more than you can imagine.

      Love and hugs!


    2. Melanie, as Rhyl said “ I know we would be great friends. You so often speak my heart in better words than I can.“ Thank you sharing your walk with us.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You have perfectly described my state of being since last October when I too lost a child, a never-ending repentance for unknown sins. I have been drowning in tears. Only Jesus gives a glimpse of hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Johnna, Child loss is not punishment or retribution, it is a tragedy. I know it feels like punishment. It feels like the worst possible punishment. But Jesus took our punishment on the cross, there’s none left to be dispensed. I pray that you feel the Father’s loving arms around you and that you hear Him whisper, “courage” to your spirit. May He fill your heart with His mercy and grace.


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