Love and Ashes
Sometimes I imagine God up in heaven leaning back with his feet propped up on an ottoman, popcorn in hand…getting some good ole fashioned belly laughs from watching my life. And yours.
I want to ask him what I saw in a meme not too long ago: ”Could you at least give my life a soundtrack so I know what the hell is going on?”
I am not sure if any of us feel more that way than on a Valentine’s Day that also happens to fall on Ash Wednesday. And, don’t get me started yet on the fact that Easter is on April Fool’s Day. WTH, God. W.T.H. You think you are REALLY funny, don’t you?
I know that the picture of a day celebrating love falling on a day that also celebrates grief, limitations, and death is a pretty accurate portrayal of how so many of you feel.
So, so, so honest. So raw. So disorienting. So DONE.
In the painful beauty of that picture I want to reach out and touch you. I want to grab you by the arm. I want to put my hand on your back…right in the top, middle space where all the anxiety and grief tends to sit. I want you to feel warmth of my palm on your back along with the warmth of your tears.
And, I want to say: “I know. I KNOW. It hurts. It’s ashes. It’s death. Your tears are holy. Your pain is real. And, you are not alone.”
You are not alone, dear friend. You are not alone.
Your healing is through the ashes. Your wholeness comes through the death. So does love. Love perfected. Love surrendered. Love fully known.
On Valentine’s Day we think about love.
On Ash Wednesday we think about death.
Our own limitations…our own mortality…our lack of control…surrender.
“Remember, man, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
So says the priest as he makes the sign of a cross with ashes on our foreheads.
The ashes are made by burning the palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday service.
Last year’s celebrations and beginnings become reminders of this year’s grief and endings.
Last year’s joys become reminders of this year’s pain.
Love and limitations. Love and grief. Love and endings. Love and surrender.
No, God, I don’t think you are laughing.
I think you are the one with your palm pressed up against my spine…holding my sorrows and catching my tears.
I think you know that just like Christ needed a desert before OFFERING the love…we, too, need the ashes…the death, the grief, the surrender…to fully experience, RECEIVE and LIVE the love.
Like the bread: Taken. Blessed. Broken. Given.
The burning of the ashes…the grief and pain…it makes a space…room…for the love.
No, God, I don’t think you are laughing.
We often turn to 1 Corinthians 13 to fill in a scripture reading for a wedding ceremony and that is all fine and good. Appropriate, even. But. That is not what 1 Corinthians 13 is about and it wasn’t what it was designed or written for.
1 Corinthians is about love…love ultimate…love primo…love’s perfection. In other words, it is about the only love that is fully and wholly manifested to us:
God’s love for us.
Friend, the more you receive God’s love for you…His perfect, whole, HOLY love for you…and THROUGH you…the more you are able to love yourself…and then love others…well.
And, I don’t know if His love is any more on display…felt any more deeply…than when we are sitting in the ashes.
Love is a life force. A river. It FLOWS. And, it originates with God. Our Higher Power of love life energy. It starts with that Source…and flows to, in, and through us.
So. Dear one. Sitting in ashes. Streaked with tears. Heaviness sitting on your chest, tight with fears and grief…back aching from shame and pain.
Dear one taken. Dear one blessed. Dear one broken. Dear one to be given.
Dear one…it is time for you to receive.
So put your name here, friend. Put your name here. And receive.
And wear your ashes. Wear them. Sit with them. Smear them on your forehead. Let the Spirit catch your tears. Feel God’s hand on your back.
And, listen. Listen.
I am going to put my name in this space, but I invite you to change it in your mind to your name. YOURS.
I am patient with you, Emily.
So, so patient. Not in a hurry. Not at all. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
And, kind. (13:4)
I am not envious of who and what you are. I made every piece and part of you. I adore you. I want to share you. You are a blessing I am speaking into this world. (13:4)
I am not arrogant towards you. I am not haughty about your pain or grief or imperfections. Not at all, sweetheart. I see the beauty and purpose in all of those, too. I smile knowing the art I will make through those mediums that are completely unique to you, Emily. (13:4)
Not rude, either. I am not rolling my eyes at you, Emily. I’m not saying “I told you so.” Nope. Love. Just love. (13:5)
I am also not insisting on my own way with you. (13:5) I am going to work with you. Respond to you. Ask you about your dreams and desires and burdens. We are co-creators. Like a parent delighting in time spent with a child, I so hope you will invite me in…let me in on this creative process called your life.
I am also not resentful or irritable with you. (13:5) No, sweet girl. Just present. Ever present. Ever loving on you. Delighting in who you are.
I do not rejoice at wrongdoings…sure, those things you don’t get right and that cause you pain…I don’t rejoice in those…but also those things that others do to you…those wrongdoings. Never. I grieve with you. Hurt for you, Emily. And love on you. (13:6)
And, truth. My goodness, do I rejoice in truth for you, sweet thing. (13:6) So much joy over truth. Truth that you learn. That you grasp. Truth that you breathe in. That you share. That you speak. And, most of all in the ultimate truth that I LOVE you. On you. In you. Over you. Under you. Through you.
I am bearing all things with you, Emily…whether you feel it or not, understand it or not, know it or not, acknowledge it or not. I am bearing all things with you. (13:6) Walking with you. Holding you. SEEING you. With so much love.
I believe in you, hope for you, endure with you. (13:7) Always. Never ceasing. Never wavering.
My love for you never ends, Emily. Never. Never. Never. (13:8)
And? I want you to know and be known…FULLY…face to face. Not in part. Not dimly. No partially. (13:9, 12)
Fully known. Face to face.
Do you hear that, friend. Listen. Sit in the ashes. Receive.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Happy Ash Wednesday.
Happy love and ashes.
Picture from: http://liturgy.co.nz/ashes-on-st-valentines-day
(without the typo!)