Ash Wednesday 2017
Lent still feels very new to me. While my children eagerly got up to participate in the imposition of ashes at our Ash Wednesday service tonight, I thought about how weird that would have been to me as a kid and how cool it would have been too. I connect with ceremony, with observance, with pantomime and pictures. The ashes are a reminder of our frailty: "for dust you are, and to dust you will return." I felt quite frail tonight.
Last night I stayed up too late. I had a busy evening of growing and learning (and then I stayed up to watch as much as I could of Mike Birbiglia's new Netflix special). The kids had me in the kitchen by 6:35 this morning making Ivo pop the can of biscuit dough instead of me. My pain has been terrible lately. It's mostly a heaviness in all my limbs and especially in my neck and shoulders, a real deep aching in the coat hanger part of my body. When we arrived at church, Brendan took Bran straight to the nursery (where they gave him a tag that said "Brad;" I'm going to be laughing for a long time about that one, imagining my little baby Brad.) With Bran tucked away, I experienced what, I'm pretty certain, was the first full worship service of the last 19 months, 28, actually, without someone else on my body. And so I noticed myself.
My tired, heavy, aching body sat in the pew. I couldn't pretend to be unaware of my body and it's issues, such an obvious indication that things aren't all right and well. I sat and listened to the reading of the Scriptures and sang as deeply and loudly as I could. My entire afflicted, exhausted body joined with my tired, afflicted soul, and though there was discomfort in it, I felt whole before the Lord. I loved my aching body and my weary soul because I knew that the image of God himself lay upon me and that he loved me just as I was. Even in the midst of a service focused on a prolonged season of confession, of uncovering sickness and the pathologies of the false loves in my heart, I felt loved. And safe. I cannot imagine how deeply alarming it would be to take a truly close look at myself without already knowing I'm OK. But then maybe I wouldn't realize all that's not well if I didn't know God and how good things could be. I won't ever know.
For the few years that I've been aware of the benefits of participating in the seasons of the Church calendar, I've come to Ash Wednesday with an "Oh crap. I've not thought about this at all yet" kind of feeling, and I've not come up with a meaningful way to fast during the season of Lent and so have only participated by being aware of what needs addressing in my life in the coming year and taking care to read and pray more on those things. Observing Holy Week has been a habit much longer, and I get a lot more out of those 5 days or so. Today I had that same feeling, the "oh crap." But, as I sat and allowed myself to be shaped and drawn along by the liturgy of our service, I realized that my last few weeks have absolutely been leading up to Lent.
Thanks mostly to my first course of my theology program, I have realized (AGAIN) how terrified I am of what people think of me. Enslaved to my desire to be perfect (for other church people, for myself, for God), I have not seen how hard I yank on my family to prop me up. I have felt a lot of conviction over the ways I don't do things my heart (and I hope it is the Holy Spirit) calls me to do and yet do the things that I know just make me exhausted and make my family think that I hold them in contempt. How DARE we be slightly late?! How DARE you be only 5 years old and very emotional?! How dare you not love me exactly as you should so that I'm strengthened (by sucking life from you)?! Oh! I want to be done with that woman who treats the people I love most in those ways! Today, the whole day, I ran about feeling guilty that I wasn't accomplishing more.... more... what? I don't really even know.
Truthfully, reader, these things are hard for me to write about. I don't typically like to share until I have stuff figured out! This is very much still in process. Here's what I know so far: I hate to be needy but long for intimacy. This has come up a lot lately. I've been asking myself the TRUE reasons for why I take hits where I do and elsewhere demand significance and acknowledgment. I also know that I expect more servanthood from my husband than I do from myself. Well, rather, maybe I treat my husband like he should bend over backwards for me all the time because that's what I expect myself to do too. I resist when people tell me that I am doing it too much. I think there are right reasons to sacrifice yourself (see: JESUS), and wrong reasons (see: JESSICA NEEDS APPROVAL).
Lent is the right time to wrestle these things. I look forward to the next forty days of reflection. I shall not fast from my sinful habits, I hope to put them off completely! I don't know what, if anything, I will fast from. All through the service I kept thinking, "I try so hard. I want to be good enough so badly! How many times will I have to learn and re-learn that that is not what God wants from me. I can never be good enough, so I can rest and confess instead. I can soak in the balm of Jesus life that has been exchanged for mine." Can I fast from trying too hard? Maybe. It is hard to know how to challenge and resist these habits that are so deep that I don't recognize them most of the time. I don't do it on purpose. But, like I say to my kids: "I know you aren't trying to do the wrong thing, but how can you try to do the right thing."
Feel free to give me your thoughts!
For now, I'm going to try to daily repent from demanding too much of Brendan (and myself). I want to read and meditate on how true love behaves. And I want to listen a lot to this great song that was sung tonight. It cut right through all my sophisticated emotional management techniques and brought tears to my eyes.
You know, while I'm thinking of it: this is another song that does that to me too. EVERY. TIME. Yes, it's for kids (and me).