Last night under the dark skies of the country, far from our home in suburba, we entered into a room dimly lit, filled with church family, and home to a small table placed as the focal point, topped with candles and ashes. We were there for an Ash Wednesday service—a service that marks the beginning of Lent. A night designed to help us pause and to come face to face with our humanity. A humanity that encompasses selfish gains, failures, disobedience and brokenness. It’s a night that reminds me to come down from my high horse, to sit with my short comings and to speak humbly the prayer of confession. There is something slightly uncomfortable yet, beautifully sacred about it all. Perhaps the uncomfortable part comes from not being raised in a church where this time for confession was set aside---where this idea to reflect and lean into our weaknesses was given space to breath. At times, attending such a service feels alien, yet, in the depths of my soul, it calls me to partake. This summer, in my season of "withdrawal" if you will, I drove downtown and walked into the doors of a Episcopal church, alone, not knowing what to expect, and for the first time spoke the words of this prayer:
Most merciful God,
We confess that we have sinned against you
In thought, word, and deed,
By what we have done,
And by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
Have mercy on us and forgive us;
That we may delight in your will,
And walk in your ways,
To the glory of your name. Amen.
It was a pivotal moment in my faith, and continues to be so. Last night we spoke similar words, and the reality of my humanity stumbled out of the dark corners of my being.
Mother Teresa said, “The reality of my sins must come first …”
It’s impossible to encounter the power of the Gospel and the mystery of Christ if we never come to face to face with our humanity. If we never deal with the reality of our sin. If we never acknowledge that we are broken. I won't lie, it is not a warm and fuzzy place to rest, however, it is a reminder, I need more often, to not only show me what I am not, but to show me who He is.
Ash Wednesday, for me, is a day to face those dark corners. To confess that I fall short ... and to know that it's OK. It's a time for my soul to lean into the words found in Joel 2:12-13, to tear my heart wide open in the presence of a God who's grace and love will forever far exceed my understanding. It's a time that marks an intentional 40 day journey to throw off all that hinders, to flee from the sins that so easily entangles, (Hebrews 12:1) and to run this path of set before me in order to seek Him more deeply, and to draw close. It's a path that will lead to celebration, and resurrection, and life. A path that will remind me of His love and His grace upon grace upon grace that he continually lavishes over me.
From ashes to ashes, from dust to dust.
Let the adventure begin!
Let the adventure begin!