Ash Wednesday – Finding Balance
Ash Wednesday has often seemed like a religious version of a New Year’s resolution with more guilt. It beckons us to suddenly become penitent for things done and left undone without chocolate! But I’m beginning to see Lent in a new light. It’s a time to both let the Spirit work on wounds that are slow to heal and a time for irrational generosity. It’s a time to give one’s self over to the wisdom and compassion of the Spirit with disciplines that rationally don’t make much sense. (For most of us, our rational approach isn’t “workin” too well but we insist on pursuing it!) Lent is a time for finding balance – not by keeping some rigorous task or depravation – but by giving ourselves over to the work of the Spirit. It reminds me of one who entrusts their body to the work of a surgeon to repair what is needed to bring about healing. At some point the patient gives up – usually through anesthesia – for the sake of wholeness. One way the Church invites us to do that is to actualize the need for health (body, mind and spirit) through a patterned response.
When I was kid and had a spelling test approaching my mother would make (not invite!) me write each and every word ten times in a column even though that task had not been assigned. I could not understand why looking at a list of words did not suffice. Since she was bigger than me, I gave in. Just seemed prudent! In the end, that tedious exercise worked. By the time I had written it ten times that word was now mine. My mind knew it, my body knew it and I could easily see it in order to reproduce it on paper. The repetition seemed wasteful but it worked.
The disciplines of Lent seem similar. It’s hard to see why Lenten disciplines work but they do. They stand as a daily reminder of the inner longing of the Spirit to cooperate with God intention for our lives. The liturgy of the Church this day beckons us to a 40 day season of “prayer, fasting, self-denial and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word”. It probably doesn’t matter what we do as long as we do something to give thanks and glorify God. Then let the healing work of the Divine Surgeon bring to completion those areas that need healing in our lives. Let God be God. Amen