Well, the pancakes have been consumed last night, and today is Ash Wednesday. This year, I have decided that instead of giving something up for Lent, I will add something. The something I will add is a written contemplation on this 40 day journey. To assist, I have purchased this small book. It guides the reader with short reflections on the daily Mass readings.
Today’s reading was entitled “Heart Work” and was based around Joel 2:12-18. The words that struck me most were “Rend your hearts, not your garments…”
Rend my heart? My goodness … to rend one’s garments means to rip them apart in mourning. I’m to rend my heart? But I have worked so hard these last years to mend my heart – this heart that was broken at a church. And now I am to tear it open again?
I continued on to the next reading 2 Cor 5:20-6:2. The words that jumped out at me were “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” Be reconciled to God. Yes. That’s part of my intention this year. To return to the faith I have allowed to dwindle in my ambivalent response to the aforementioned hurt. Yes, I would like this very much.
Now, finally, the last reading Matt 6:1-6 – “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” I love this. It is so refreshing. To me, it is about staying humble in your faith and good deeds. There is nothing to prove. There is no contest on who is the most spiritual. It’s just about quietly helping out where you see a need.
Clearly, the job now is to put these readings together in order to find the initial direction for the next 40 days. After some thought, I realized something important. I actually do need to break this meticulously mended heart apart in order to reveal what needs to be removed. I have knit it so carefully together, but inadvertently have included the unfortunate church experience as part of it all. This hurt does not belong in me. It’s no longer something I need to carry. And it has been directing my approach to God as well as to other churches for too long. This is not healthy. How ironic it is that I decided to leave that particular faith community in order to protect my relationship with God, but, ultimately, have allowed that hurt to become a bitterness within me. This hurt is now my stumbling block. Today I realized that in order to heal, and in order to reconcile with God and His Church, this bitterness needs to be eradicated. These old memories of hurt need to be weeded out.
So, here I am on Ash Wednesday, heart broken wide open and waiting for all that God has planned. I am ready!
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future – Jeremiah 29:11