photo-42This morning after the dawn Ash Wednesday service, I looked around and saw this small group of people with whom I’d worshipped… I attended a local Episcopal church rather than my own because my schedule today doesn’t allow for going to an evening service, and honestly, I needed the heavy purple ritual, incense and dark wood, the early morning crispness, and the sense of being out of place.  So, Lenten ashes and Eucharist in a new community.  One of the things that I love about church is that, after years of finding myself drawn there and yet feeling entirely foreign to it, I am now at peace with the fact that actually no one feels totally comfortable anywhere.  And we’re all just sort of wandering around hoping for a moment that makes sense and is beautiful and feels whole, is connected to something.  So, I looked around and saw all of these strangers, people from my neighborhood who I had never met before, and seeing the dark smear of ashes on their foreheads, felt a surprising sense of home.  The rector, a sweet-voiced woman who reminded me of someone I can’t quite place, talked about ashes and bread.  The ashes remind us that we are human, she said.  They tell us who we are.  That we’re breakable.  That we’re fragile.  That we’re not God.  But on Ash Wednesday, you can’t revel in the ashes.  Rolling around in them, rending your garments, confessing your sin, these are all necessary and important, essential to recognizing yourself and your place in the human family.  But it can not end there, even at the beginning of the Lenten season.  The sharing of the Great Banquet in community with God and other people must follow.  Crucifixion is meaningless without resurrection.  Knowing who you are as a human being is nothing if you don’t know who God is.  The bread and wine (and yes, I can say “wine” today, because it really was), they are evidence of who God is, has been, and will be.  Knowing we’re broken doesn’t make a damn bit of difference if we don’t have hope for healing.  This Lent, this forty days in the wilderness, it’s an opportunity for recognition… of our own failings, the things we do and leave undone… but I can’t forget that it leads somewhere, and that place is the other side of pain.  God will show us the path through the desert, and guide us along it.  When we fall down, it will be with God’s grace holding our elbows and lifting us up, pointing us back in the right direction.  Because we’re humans, and not God, and that’s grace.  You don’t have to do it alone, and it doesn’t have to look perfect.  Even tomorrow, when the ashes have washed away, I’ll still be fragile.  God will help me remember that, and remind me that God loves fragility because it allows space for God’s strength and gives me a reason to continue to search for home.



  1. embracethecall Said:

    “I am now at peace with the fact that actually no one feels totally comfortable anywhere.”


  2. Anna Said:

    Thanks for this post. I agree with the previous comment. amen.

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