Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

Now that we've finished gorging ourselves with pancakes and paczki's and parades, the penitential season of Lent has begun with that big bang known as Ash Wednesday. And for the first time in quite awhile, I opted to pass.

It's not that I'm anti-church. It's not that I dislike somber music. It's not that I'm against self-reflection. In fact, I'm heartily in favor of all those things. Bring it on and give me the whole enchilada of forty days and forty nights woefully sung in the key of d minor. The saddest of all keys.

What I don't like is the smudge. What I don't like is walking in and hearing that I'm lower than a worm and a sinner before I was even born. Wii-Fit games aside, how can it be that I'm an epic failure before I've even started the race? I've decided that I'm tired of King James and his band of merry men jumping the judgmental gun at my expense. Give me a chance to screw up first, please?

Not that it's not going to happen. Of course it is. I'm a walking, talking self-fulfilling prophecy and I'm willing to own my flaws. I even reluctantly accept the entire ashes to ashes and dust to dust premise because I know there's no way of getting out of that one either. But somewhere along the line during Lent it seems there is a disconnect between what we are called to be and what we are being called. Wicked and wretched...party of two.

And even if I did go along with the whole "sinner in my mother's womb" idea, does anyone really think that giving up french fries is going to help? Or candy? Or meat on Friday? Does that sort of sacrifice make me less horrible and more Holy? Is a Jolly Rancher really what's standing in the way of my spiritual journey? Why is a cow my religious scapegoat?

Before you get angry, please let me assure you that I'm not making light of the season of Lent, or of anyone who chooses to participate in any or all of the many and varied rituals. There are an infinite number of paths during this spiritual season, and rest assured, if you are walking with confidence in your journey, then you are exactly where you should be doing what you should be doing.

But as for me, this year I'm passing on the smudge. I'm passing on the wickedness and I'm passing on the wretchedness. I'm passing on the epic failure and being a sinner since before the dawn of time. It's bad enough that I'm a pro at beating myself up and tearing myself down. I don't need Lent double-teaming me and making it worse. There has to be a better path for me.

I rediscovered a short but powerful song by Melissa Etheridge that says it all -

We keep thinking
Life is what it's not
We keep building
this impossible facade

Why do we keep trying
to turn people into Gods

when God Is In The People

If I spend my days full of self-loathing I'll never recognize the wants and needs of others. If I spend my days with my head bowed in shame I'll never see look up to see the love and the humanity in the faces of all those whose lives touch mine. This Lent I don't want to willingly allow any more black marks to mar my existence. I want to spend my time with open eyes and ears and heart rediscovering the hope, beauty and joy that is found in life, in people, and in me.

I think then, I just might discover God.
Smudge-free.

4 comments:

Carol, Song of Joy said...

You go, girl! Maybe you can just give all that "worminess" for Lent.
Thanks for this thoughtful post. I've missed those of late.

an.t. said...

Wow. This is a really nice piece. Thanks for posting it.

Sarah said...

For all the reasons you just said, they are why I'm a UU. I never could accept the Original Sin thing; I never could understand how giving up chocolate on Lent would make the world a better place or me a more compassionate person. What I give up for Lent: anger.

Hahn at Home said...

I really liked this. I think if we all focus on just being the best we can be on any given day,we've done a lot.