I suppose I’ve had an intriguing relationship with Ash Wednesday over the years. At times, the day has intersected with some challenging moments and chapters in our lives.
I’ve participated in Ash Wednesday. . .
. . . on the very day an opportunity fell through, and we learned we wouldn’t be making a move we really wanted,
. . . on a day when I was acutely aware I was about to lose a job,
and most challenging,
. . . on the exact date that one of the most beloved people of my life received a terminal cancer diagnosis.
In the Lent tradition, Ash Wednesday serves as a recognition of impermanence and our own mortality. In various chapters of my life, the date has intersected with real occasions for grief.
Yet surprisingly, I don’t feel a sense of dread when I reach this annual tradition.
On one hand, the day can provide an opportunity to feel something cathartic. In our broader culture, we often push away public expressions of grief. There aren’t enough occasions to honor our pain and the pain of others in visible ways. But on Ash Wednesday, people actually wear that pain and acknowledge it in each other’s presence.
But most of all, I suppose I don’t dread this date because there is a real expression of hope within it. Pain, grief, and mortality — real as they are — are never the final word. In a time of great anxiety, I hope to put that Hope on display today. The Hope is this:
No matter what we fear,
No matter what we lose,
No matter what we hear,
No matter what we’ve done,
No matter how we’ve failed,
No matter how we’ve been failed,
No matter what has been done to us,
We are loved with a LOVE we cannot lose.
I really do believe that.
And in a time of fear, grief, and anxiety, I both believe and choose to display daily that each human being is absolutely Beloved — that each and all are worth the Love that forms their being. I do not mirror this love or this truth perfectly, but I’m going to keep working at it. I hope we all will. . .because this is the actual truth.
Even in the face of death itself, it’s a truth that can be lived.