Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ash Wednesday-Beginning the Lenten Journey

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. And tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. we will meet to recieve our ashes from one another.

This recieving of ashes marks the beginning of our willingness to focus during the time of Lent on the things that interfere with our relationship with God....or as I am calling it during this time, from seeing "our true face." Our 'true face' is a reflection of God, for we are made in God's image. But sometimes in our fear and our anxiety we use other things (usually things that are, in themselves, good gifts from God) to try to sooth our anxiety and calm our fears. Lent is a time when we commit to not turning to those things, but risking sitting with our feelings in prayer and expectation that God will meet us where we are.

Let me give you a small, personal example:

I really like junk food. I mean I REALLY like it. I find it comforting. The amount of carbs and sugar can change my mood in a heartbeat (almost literally). After a day of seeing clients when I feel totally inept; when no change seems to be happening; when I feel like I've missed everything I should have seen...I can be really down.

On a night like that I often give in to the temptation to stop at 7-Eleven and grab a sweet roll and a bag of chips. This would not be so bad...except that I eat them on my way to the Wendy's that I pass on my way down Rte 50 to Annapolis. There I'll get me a double meat sandwich, fries, and a rootbeer float (I was in heaven when Wendy's starting making floats).

Now maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I only did this once a week and I let my depressive feelings about myself and the quality of my work as a therapist just go on by....not clinging to them or wallowing in them. But let's say that I get into one of those funks that lasts a loooong time. At this point I'm in a spiritual dilemma. I'm losing my 'true face' as I drag myself through the mud, avoid the feelings that I should be addressing with God in meditation and prayer, and substituting my sugar/carb high for the assurance that comes when I risk bringing my fears and my failings to God in the silence.

Now this may not sound like such a big deal. But what if we ask ourselves about the parts of our relationship with God that we avoid out of fear of rejection, or judgement, or punishment, or abandonment. How many of us have places in our lives where we have soothed that fear, avoided that pain, with substitutes for this ultimate relationship? Success, money, busy-ness, mood altering substances or behaviors, television-have becoming numbing drugs for some of us.

And when our lives have held great pain, the temptation to stay with that numbness is so much greater.

Ash Wednesday is an invitation to risk setting aside what numbs us. To face, in the presence of God, whatever it is we're avoiding. To trust that God will meet us there in the pain and darkness. It is an acknowledgement that this is not an easy task. Like the old preachers used to say "there is no Easter without Good Friday." But it is also to trust that if we take the risk; God will meet us there with new life.

Ash Wednesday is also a reminder that we don't have to do this alone. The community of faith that calls itself Broadneck Baptist Church makes this journey together as we worship, and study, and pray.

And a final invitation...if during this time you feel like you need to talk; like you want to share you struggle with someone...please call the church or email me at the link on our web page and let's make a time to talk and pray together. We all have our 'ashes' and the work of a pastor is very often "one begger telling another begger where to find food."

Hope to see you Wednesday and Sunday.


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