Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Comfortable Season

It's Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  Lent is a great season of the church; it offers the chance to be self-reflective, to admit fault, and encourages discipline in a way that gets glossed over during the rest of the church year.  It's that time of the year when some people you know may "give up" a food item (chocolate) or a behavior (cursing).  It's also a time when some folks "add" to their lives - the practice of reading the Bible daily; only praying for other people; deliberate quiet time everyday.

I remember during my senior year of high school, I have up all refined sugars during Lent.  On Easter morning I delighted drank four Dr Peppers and ate a bag full of candy and that afternoon lapsed into what I can only assume was hyperglycemic shock.  I slept for hours, and even after that was lethargic and a bit muddled.  Chances are, I missed the point of the season.  

Today I've been doing "Ashes-to-Go" at various coffee shops.  This morning I distributed ashes at one starbucks with a fellow clergywoman and we got to talk "shop" - about Lent, about Easter and about the process of leading people in spiritual development.  And as we talked, I mentioned how it's been several years since I really felt like Easter was real for me.  Lent I get - a season of introspection, of penitence.  I especially understand Holy Week and its themes of suffering and loss and waiting for life to come again.  But Easter - life out of death? Celebration after suffering?  Miraculous healing out of unbelievable pain?  That has seemed too far away for too long.

This year, though.  This year I finally may be ready for Easter.  

Gareth was born about a week after Easter in 2010.  That was a cheerful Easter.
Easter 2011 took place while we were waiting for Cliff to go to trial.
Easter 2012 took place while I was struggling to live in the aftermath of Cliff's incarceration and fearful of my father's cancer returning.
Easter 2013 took place while I was looking for another call in light of my current call ending.

In light of lonliness, vocational stress, tested faith, family tragedy and continuing anguish over the twists and turns of fate, Easter seemed to be a mockery.  My life was one long Lent, one long Holy Week, three years of preparation and waiting and inward privation, of longing and anguish and discipline and ashes.  I was on the Journey with Jesus, but so far the tomb was still closed.  If Joy comes in the morning, I was in one long night.

So perhaps I'm a little more excited for this season of Lent than I have been in the past.  Not just becasue I'm getting to lead it for the first time (though that's pretty awesome).  I want to do the prep work and the reflection (and perhaps the privation) because for the first time in years, I believe that at the end of it I can actually say Alleluia and rejoice in the empty tomb because it has been proven out in my own life.  Coming to Galveston has been my own version of Easter - it is here that I've discovered joy and hope and energy and strength and belief in a future.  

We'll see though.  Till then, I'll wait and pray and prepare for the mighty work God does to defeat darkness and death.  I'll walk with my people through the season and try to find a way to give them new words for an ancient story.  Today I wear ashes on my face, but for the first time in years, I no longer wear ashes on my soul.  Life is fleeting and mortality is real.  But there's still joy to be had in the meantime.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

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