It’s here once again. Ash Wednesday. This year my preparations for today began a couple of weeks ago as I purposed to prepare my heart and my soul for the 40 day journey between now and Easter.
I’ve read the opening scripture for Lent in Joel 2:12-18. The nation of Israel is bad straits. Their crops are failing and they have been ravaged by locusts. The “Day of Lord” is hand, a reckoning. And, Joel could have suggested they make some sacrifices, public displays of remorse and regret or perhaps find those who are the biggest sinners in the bunch and call for their removal from the community. But instead, he calls for them to return to the Lord, with fasting and weeping and finally he says, “rend your hearts, not your garments”. The typical public display of tearing their clothes is not what God wants, He calls for their hearts broken open and poured out, returning to Him wholeheartedly. He responds with grace and mercy.
From there we are invited into our Lenten journey. Public displays, regret and remorse are not the way…but our hearts broken open is what we are called towards.
Joan Chittister is one of my favorite authors during Lent. She says, “Lent is a call to weep for what we could have been and are not. Lent is the grace to grieve for what we should have done and did not. Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not. Lent is not about penance. Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now.”
Weep for what we could have been and are not.
Grieve for what we should have done and did not.
Change what we ought to change but have not.
What is blocking the fullness of life in us right now.
For me, this year I have found that my sense of what to weep and grieve over is very available, it is not ambiguous or confounded. And, change is most often blocked by fear. Fear of what might or might not happen. Fear of what may or may not be said. Fear of being wrong, being too much, being not enough, saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things, somehow making what has me weeping and grieving worse than it already is.
Yep. Fear pretty much is a stopper for me. It shuts me down and starts to make my world small and tight.
Another literary friend of mine this season has been Henri Nouwen and in particular his work “Home Tonight”. Here’s what is highlighted now in my journal from him…
“So, homecomeing for us is turning away from pervasive fears that cripple relationships, imprison us in misery, and steal our freedom. Jesus’ whole mission in coming to live among us was to call us home to the truth of our lives.”
My word for this year, “home”, coupled with where I have been led during the past month has made the path clear for my journey with Lent this year.
I am to give up fear and come home to the truth of my life. I will continue to weep, grieve and move towards changing what needs to be changed.
I will follow Jesus on His journey to the cross, and along the way pick up my own. I don’t know for sure how giving up fear will play out. Honestly, it feels like too much and too hard. Still by faith, I am going to walk it out. The prayer from my devotional yesterday morning will be my prayer for the journey….
“Loving Lord, faith feels risky, but there’s no way to live without trust. I pray, then, for a faith that amazes you, entrusting my life to you alone, humbly and patiently loving you, fearing you, and honoring you with all my heart. Amen.”
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). Married for 28 years, she is mother to five kids. After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. Founder of Red Tent Living, she writes here.