I'll be honest, Lent is feeling like a bit much this year. I feel raw, undone, stressed out, and anemic. I actually am anemic, more so than my usual anemic self, so that is just adding kindling to the already brewing stress fire that I feel like I am under. Like most stress, it is a stress of my own doing. You know, bringing children into the world and then letting them go to school, and then letting them eat, and then because I am completely living wildly and unhinged. I let them do extra curricular activities. I also work, and as much as I want to complain about it, it's a gift of a job, a paycheck, and flexible enough that I get to be with them when they are not in school, and I even have days off, so I'll just go ahead and be thankful - BUT, it's in the mix, along with our blessing of a home, and our husband and daddy who also works hard and is intentional and kind in all the right ways. Still, still, even still - pulling this off is hard work, and it does occasionally have me spinning my wheels and saying cuss words.
So in pops Ash Wednesday, with it's solemn fast. This Ash Wednesday, I have just gotten the phone call (the anemia one), which confirms what I had already been feeling, that there was definitely not enough oxygen getting to my brain. It was a work day, so my day started early, and then we finished our day with homework and a play practice and two piano lessons. So, imagine my excitement to take two strung out kids to a 1.5 hour Ash Wednesday Service, only to be reminded of how I was formed from dust and to dust I shall return. I love the liturgical year. I love entering into the Gospel story, but I hated that it was Ash Wednesday, and I had no desire to be told what I already so keenly felt. Tired. In need of Mercy. Did I really need to throw ashes on my head to seal the deal? Couldn't we skip the whole ceremony, eat some dinner and call it good?
I am married to a first born, and I am one, too, so I won't leave you guessing. We went. We went tired and limping into the Cathedral. We staggered to the front with tired and restless children. We were donned with ashes and then given the bread of life. And then we went and ate a grilled cheese, all of us marked with what we had been carrying around inside all day.
Ashes to Ashes. Dust to Dust.
Sitting with your own mania, crazy, and dysfunction is not really that comforting. It is timely - at the moment - but not comforting. And I admit that I feel angry. Angry that joy doesn't flow easier. Angry that I am less kind than I had hoped at this stage in life. Angry that I don't have a personal assistant or a house cleaner or driver. I actually dreamed that my husband let my oldest daughter Annie drive her and her sister home from school. She is EIGHT. I woke up in a terror of - are they alive? And if they are, Am I going to jail?
This is what it's come to my friends.
I wish I could write here and say I've made my peace with this season of unrest. I haven't. I'm right in the middle of it, struggling over it. But, but.... I am not without hope. Thank God.
Last weekend, I went to hear one of my favorite singer - songwriters, Sandra McCracken. She said something that really resonated with my personal season of unrest. She said - Gospel Hope always follows the path of the resurrection. It dives down through sorrow and is met with joy on the other side. Joy rises up. Of course it does.
So, like most wisdom, it comes, and lingers, and then when you are completely out of your mind crazy, you totally forget it. Until now. Until I am writing these words.
This morning, I woke up with similar Ash Wednesday, Lent-y feelings. Can I just get a day off? Can we work that into the church calendar? I tried to quiet myself, "go to my cell", like the monks do. My cell is my bed and an open window.
I read this poem.
Wendell Berry (born 1934)
The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.
Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. And it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.
It was a beautiful answer to my longing.
And then my husband tried to instruct me on how to cut an apple and I lost my shit. There isn't a polite way to say it, because that's exactly what happened.
So, we had a good marital fight. I cried all my angry tears about how I just wanted someone to be able to fix all the stress and take care of me. I really just wanted to go to shop the Target isles and forget that Lent was happening and honestly, I resented having to be anywhere at all. But because we were met with a situation that felt void of hope, there was only one good answer. Go anyway. If mercy is what you need, then go where you can find it.
So I went, and I sat most of the service with my eyes closed. And then we had to pass the peace, which is always humbling when you just had a angry fight with your husband. But the pressure eased for a brief moment and there was actual peace. (along with some humiliation, because sin can feel that way). And then I took the bread and wine and prayed fire wouldn't strike my head for being such a terrible, rotten person. But mercy doesn't work that way. It pours water on hot, angry tears, and says I forgive you.
I am still waiting for the Joy to rise up. It will. Lent does not leave us to ourselves. It carries us through sorrow to the resurrection. It carries us all the way to Easter. And like this beautiful song, Love will bring us home.