Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rend my Heart: An Ash Wednesday Reflection

 I have been waiting for Ash Wednesday for about a month. I am impatient with the dreariness of winter; I long for the warmth in the breeze and that beautiful golden-green that signals the very first moments of spring (al a Robert Frost). "Lent" literally means "spring" and I relish living in a part of the country in which the two events actually coincide.  

In December I became aware of a blind-spot of mine: I have a rebellious nature. (I can hear you laughing! Of course you knew this! I am the last to know and that's why it's called a "blind-spot," smarty!) I took this revelation to confession and Fr. Jonathan sweetly asked, "What are you rebelling against?" This I could not answer. Fast forward a few weeks, many hours of prayer and a couple of conversations with my astute support partner and the answer was abundantly clear: I rebel against vulnerability. Or to put it another way, I close my heart. As much as I am being lighthearted, it is a terrible and painful admission for me. Since then, for weeks, truly, I have been praying for open-heartedness, abundant love, abiding love, for perfect love.

I love the words from the first reading today, "rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God."  I can visualize that tough old covering being "rent" off. I see progress. As always, just identifying a blind-spot tends to make us work on it. I was sorely tested in Mass today though, I promise; all three little ones were putting me through the ringer and I was grateful for the Lord's prayer in which we forgive others because never did I need it more! I managed to genuinely pass the peace with them but I'd be praying for forgiveness again before we got out. Yet, in other days, I see that I am more willing to be open-hearted, to love unconditionally, to let others in. Not as much as I'd like, but progress.

I know I have it in me to be vulnerable. I can remember instances-- days and weeks -- in which I opened my heart, both to beauty and to pain. In More to Life, they call it "letting in the lifeshocks."   I remember inspiring jubilation and terrible, heart-wrenching hours, both met with that simple vulnerability. What amazes me now that is that I can see in both extremes (and all that occurred in between) that regardless of the raw emotion, when I was able to let go the reins, such incredible, sweet tenderness was present. I was able - in those times - to feel a peace and assurance that is not present in my daily life. Remembering these times encourages me and quells my fear.

So enter Lent, which I like to call "the spiritual work season." I am ready to roll up my sleeves, put myself in the paths of lifeshocks, and knock the devil on his keister! I know that it is evil, not love, that makes me close my heart out of fear. And when I do, I don't always notice. It's not a loud, clanging door, like when the wind catches the screen. It's more like the heavy sliding door of the confessional; it just eases closed without a peep. It is not until later that I realize I have fortressed my heart again.

I have chosen my Lenten sacrifices of course, the measurable, accountable kind. But my true sacrifice will be one that is much harder to measure; I am giving up my protectiveness. I am going to stop worrying about what will happen if I truly let God hold the reins in my life. I am letting go of the illusion of control. In fact, I am suddenly reminded of something my friend and mentor Richard Perry said once, "God has given me every moment of choice . . . and not a single moment of control."

My work for the season is to see how God can use me if I let him. I will let him. Stay tuned. . .

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