Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday: Not Just My Small Self

"There are two moments that matter. One is when you know that your one and only life is absolutely valuable and alive. The other is when you know your life, as presently lived, is entirely pointless and empty." Richard Rohr

Today is Ash Wednesday. I had high hopes for catapulting into the season of Lent with a new hunger for sacrifice and supplication.

We are snowed in, which sounds dramatic but isn't entirely accurate, as I quite easily got in the Suburban and drove to the grocery store yesterday. The truth is, we have some 8-10" of snow on the ground and the back roads remain unplowed and so we sit and wait for things to melt so life can return to normal. The schools are closed again, tomorrow, and my 15-year son is bored. Life has come to a standstill.

What's more, I've spent the better part of these past two days on the couch, surrounded by soggy Kleenex and mugs of half-drunk tea. My head is pounding.

The above passage resonates with me this afternoon, as I crawl out of the fog and clogged mucus that has surrounded my head and lungs for two days. It is Ash Wednesday, and I have no ashes but I am determined to make note of this day, as we begin the slow plodding, through the snow and salt and thickness, towards an encounter with something not of ourselves. Ironically, it's less a spiritual matter than an honest, tangible physical place: Monday, I felt "absolutely valuable and alive", flitting from meeting to meeting, cooking, watching the snow fall, excited for a change in the routine. Felled by a simple cold, for 36 hours I can affirm that my life, as presently lived, feels "entirely pointless and empty."

I think, sometimes, of the gift of health; of how difficult it would be for someone like me to find meaning apart from all the doing. Being still, allowing space and time for healing; the minutes and hours tick by and my bones sink into the couch and there is not much of a mark left on the world.

This Lenten season, I aim to be open to what I might discover by welcoming both the valuable and alive and the pointless and empty. Regarding those moments, Rohr goes on to say:

"You nee both of them to keep you going in the right direction...The first such moment gives you energy and joy by connecting you with your ultimate Source and Ground. The second gives you limits and boundaries and a proper humility, so you keep seeking the Source and Ground and not just your small self."

Not just my small self.

The introspective part of me quite likes the sound of that. I don't doubt that the more headstrong, action-oriented space in my soul will put up a fight.

Forty days; I hope to change.

If you are new to the idea of Lent as a meaningful spiritual practice, check out this informative post by my brother.

Richard Rohr's "Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent" is my devotional companion for these forty days; it's available at local bookstores and on

If you observing Lent or seeking spiritual growth in this season before Easter, let me know. We can walk together. 

1 comment:

annie said...

I've spent the day in my bedroom closet, clearing out and rearranging, and hanging a clothes shelf to replace one that fell away too many years ago. There is something about that that feels spiritual to me.

I was glad to read the second part of the quote. Both moments are necessary and important.