Today is Ash Wednesday.
Honestly, I have never been a fan of Lent. In the past I’ve given up things here and there, but it was mostly because I like a challenge. That’s not a very good reason for practicing what is supposed to be a spiritual discipline. Also, while I realize my theologian friends will be quick to correct this, Lent always feels a little like we are pretending we don’t know how it ends. Like we’re making serious faces and being all emo and refraining from saying “Alleluia” (which means “Praise the Lord” by the way – and, truthfully, seems a little silly to stop saying or doing).
This year… I am into it. Not in a gloomy black-turtleneck sort of way, but in a way that says “OK God, open my eyes. Remind me of who you are. Remind me of who I am.”
And Ash Wednesday answers.
One fall, I agreed to drive a couple teenagers from our church to the local corn maze for a youth event. I was seven months pregnant, so I wasn’t up for a walk through winding pit-filled paths in the dark, but I parked the car in the lot and got out for a moment to say hello.
When I returned to my car and went to leave, my wheels spun ruts in the mud. I was stuck. Passers-by gave all sorts of suggestions – turn the steering wheel to the right. To the left. Reverse. Hit the gas quickly. All of their suggestions just made the ruts deeper and splattered mud further up the sides of my car. My husband came and jammed some cardboard under the tires. No luck. I was feeling pretty pitiful, the giant pregnant lady stranded in the dark.
A friend called Triple A, and the most gigantic flatbed tow truck I’ve ever seen came out. It navigated carefully through the narrow dirt lot before the driver told me that my car was, officially, too far from the actual road for a tow. As he left, I went to walk back to where everyone was gathered, and I tripped on a rut and fell into a puddle. I landed on my knees and palms, but I splattered muddy water from my head to my toes. Clumsy, crying, mud-splattered, exhausted, hormonal. Still stuck.
That is who I am. After a tow from the tractor at the corn maze, after the birth of that baby, after a car wash, after all the mud flecks have been washed from my hair and from under my nails – I am still that person on their hands and knees in the puddle. I would like people to see my intelligence, my creativity, my wit or my loving spirit – but most days, I am stuck. I’m stuck in selfishness, in a life that is too focused on my own house, in judgy-ness and lack of discipline and a host of other things. I can’t smart my way out, create my way out, or love my way out. I need more.
And I am reminded. Of sacrifice. Of love. Of how I get un-stuck.
Of forgiveness. Thank you.