I expected to respond to Ash Wednesday with a solemn, sullen post.
In spite of myself, or perhaps true to form, what I ended up with was a meditation built on three spunky songs that may or may not put one in a penitent mood.
One reason that writing is such an essential part of my spiritual journey is it helps me gather and process all the jumbled bits of sight and sound that get soaked up and stored in my soul. I am often like a peddler, with seemingly useless information as my wares, who doesn’t even know what’s in her pack until it falls out at an unexpected moment. Friends and family notice this most often when a random word or phrase uttered causes me to break into (a slightly out-of-tune) song that has been called forth from my memory.
I hear a lot of things, but I don’t always listen well.
Through the process of writing, I take the time to sit down and sort through my ragged bag of trinkets and tokens gathered from an assortment of mundane places. Sometimes I may just sift through the pile, polish some tarnish off a few items, and stuff it all back in the sack. Other times, an article catches my eye and holds my attention, and as I’m paying attention to what I found, I start gazing through the collection and noticing objects that compliment the one I’m holding in my hands. A pile of junk starts to reveal itself as a beautiful assemblage of interrelated treasures.
Writing trains me to listen deeply.
As I learn to listen, as my senses become more attentive to the world around me, I am more open to recognizing and receiving patterns of truth and beauty that are woven through the songs I hear, the words I read, the sights I observe, the friends and teachers I encounter. Margaret Feinberg refers to these as God Whispers and Sacred Echoes. (Lorelai Gilmore refers to them as a wild jungle full of scary gibberish.)
So, I thought of Ash Wednesday.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
All fall down. That's the first song I ever heard from Sarah Masen, who has long been one of my favorite songwriters:
Trip on grace.
That's a lovely phrase.
It requires a great amount of trust, a release of control, for one to trip on grace, to embrace and dive into sweet communion.
Trip on love… that was a good song:
When you feel too much, do you start to panic?
Accepting love requires us to expose ourselves to the possibility of loss.
Grace and love.
Oh, to understand how loved we truly are.
You. Are. Loved.
You. Are. Really. Loved.
Entering into the reflection and repentance of the Lenten season requires the humility to admit your brokenness, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the vulnerability to accept that you are loved in spite of how you may feel, in spite of what you may have done, in spite of who other people are saying you are.
You can be fully honest with God because you are fully loved by God.
You were created out of God’s love. You are sustained through God’s love. You will be redeemed through God’s love.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, love to love.
God’s kingdom has come near to us through his son and through his spirit. May we turn toward that truth, may we believe it, may we live and move and have our being within it.