Fully Known . . . Fully Loved: a Meditation for Ash Wednesday

Fully Known . . . Fully Loved: a Meditation for Ash Wednesday March 1, 2006
Honesty Alert
There are some thoughts in the following that are rather personally revealing. Some of my pastor colleagues would post thoughts like this only over their own dead bodies. But, as you know, I’m one for honesty. However, by way of disclaimer I will say this:
If you prefer to think of the preacher as someone who is perfectly wonderful and without any problems . . . or if you think you’ll read this and spend the rest of your day either trying desperately to figure out what my deep, dark secrets might be or being shocked that I might have some, well, then, do yourself a favor and skip this blog entry.
If, on the other hand, you are someone who also fails occasionally, someone who needs forgiveness and restoration from time to time, well, then you might find that this reflection resonates with you.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Today at Calvary we’ll have a somber recognition of the beginning of the season of Lent. We’re Baptists so this is all kind of new to us, but in addition to quiet reflection we’ll also have imposition of the ashes. When the ashes are imposed the minister will say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Many of you will be doing the same, so I thought I’d use this space to reflect a little on what the minister, well, what this minister, happens to be thinking today as we head into Lent.

Let me start by saying that Lent is my favorite season of the church year. I’m not sure why exactly, except perhaps that it has always given some sort of sadistic license to the naturally pessimistic side of myself. (I’m surrounded by glass half full people—so annoying, as my glass has perennially—always—been down to the last drop.) Lent is a formal, liturgical season set for looking at the down side of life—what a bonus for those of us who enjoy brooding!

Despite my love of angst I have to say that while in the past Lent has been a time when I’ve had opportunity to slow down and take a cold, hard look at myself, usually the season consists of studied refocusing, of adjusting my way a little bit as I take the time to see a little more clearly the ways in which I’ve managed to veer off course.

This year it all seems different.

This year has been a year in which I didn’t need Lent to see how far I veered off course. I’ve had a year of cold, hard reality and some harsh pain that has been so personal that there are very few who even knew I was carrying it (preachers don’t make mistakes–big ones, anyway; preachers don’t fail, at least publicly; preachers are perfect . . . so goes the broken record in my brain). I’ve hurt some people I love this year; I’ve failed in ways I’d characterize as a bit more dramatic than just crossing the edge of the road onto the shoulder for just a moment. There’s no need for deep reflection this year . . . I already know . . . and am reminded in various ways all the time just how badly I’ve failed.

So this year during Lent instead of a curious inquiry into the more shadowy parts of my life that I’ve been studiously avoiding, well, I am looking for something else. This year I am longing for a place where I can come and be fully known yet fully loved at the same time, a place that I’ve had a hard time finding lately.

So, this Lent when I hear again that I am dust and to dust I shall return, well, I’ll nod in total and complete understanding. Then I’ll turn to the altar, draped in black, and begin the process of unburdening my heart. One by one, I aim to unpack each piece of the pain of this year gone by, leaving it there for the One who already knows me—everything about me—but still loves me anyway.

I think, ironically, after all these years, I am finally getting to the core, to the essence of Lent. It’s not about wearing a hair shirt or self-flagellation or even making sure your list of grievous failures is total and complete.

There are plenty of folks lined up to help with that all the time, as I’ve found out this year.

No, for me this year Lent is about coming into the presence of God to rest for awhile in the only place . . . the only place . . . where I am fully known and still fully loved.

What a gift . . . and one I’m hanging onto for dear life this year.
May you find such a place yourself, whatever you carry to the altar today. Blessed Ash Wednesday.

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  • marisa

    wow. i think i almost teared up, that was very poignant. and it is a day of reflection.

  • Chuck

    Thanks for shining a light on your soul and making yourself vulnerable to anyone who reads this. Yes, God loves you. In our community of faith, we should all strive to be more like God, as Jesus taught us, and love each other more, not in spite of our failures and shortcomings, but because of them.

  • Will

    Hi Amy

    What a wonderful Ash Service you gave today. This has been my first Ash Wednesday I had been in my life.

    I know that we have some much on owner minds. That thing we do, thing we say, promise we make and all thing we do we ten to fail the people we love or what to help. Some moments in life we try to be a happy cheer full people make us about to be.

    But well all were all sinner in his eye. We try to avoid the true but realty sets in that we need him to forgive for the thing we did and my to come.

    But for me I tend to forget to put my trouble in his hand to ease my mind a give rest to my soul. I as human can begin to truth that he loves us so much. So we gust need some faith, love and care to get us throw another day.

    Amy you said “preachers don’t make mistakes” no everybody make mistakes. Every body make mistakes that way GOD forgive us over and over and over and over again. And he will not love use any more or lest in his eye.

    But Amy if you what to have someone to talk to or a friend to talk to. I ways a phone call away. NO I not a pastor or any other in the church hood. But I am human and I am a sinner.

    Your Friend

  • Anonymous

    thank you