I think I'm getting used to this cursed cold. The kids are going skiing today and my phone tells me it's fifteen below on the mountain right now.
Not sure how that's going to work out.
Every day, now, the temperatures seem to hover around zero. It's been snowing a lot. It's a real winter, I guess. And, having spent my entire life in the northeast, I can appreciate a solid showing of snow and ice. I am, however, thinking about the days ahead, post-ordination, and the dream of a little church in the lovely Portola Valley, outside San Fran. Of Jasmine that blooms year-round and a life lived in one and not five layers of clothing.
Something to look forward to, perhaps.
In the meantime, I have to dig a little deeper for the pockets of wonder that keep my head above water and my feet on this frozen ground. Ash Wednesday was quite beautiful. I love that crazy smoodge of the ashes from last year's palms on my forehead. I love the smell. I love the messy reminder that that's where I'm headed, that this body, shriveling now from age and the dryness and cold wind, will one day be dust, dissolved back into the land. I'm not nuts, though, about the whole "give something up for Lent" concept, I have to confess. It somehow doesn't fit with my understanding of what this is about. Penitence? Why store that up for the days leading up to Easter? Best to stay on top of the need for forgiveness year-round. Plus, shining the spotlight on the fact that we're human and deeply flawed seems redundant. We get it; we're not always all that great, and, as that funny God pointed out by sending a human to us to teach a few lessons and perform a few clever tricks, it's pretty great to be human.
Are we supposed to give something up during Lent so we can suffer a little...so we can, dare I say, empathise with Jesus and his suffering? Hm. I'm not so sure that giving up chocolate or red meat for a couple of weeks is on par with betrayal, torture and death by nails and wood. Or heart attack or a broken heart. No one really know what did him in, but he died at a young age and in a brutal way. So, no, giving up pizza or booze or even Facebook for forty six days isn't going to get you there; don't bother.
I think what we're supposed to do during these days leading up to Easter is actually take some new things on. I think we're supposed to figure out how to make our light shine just a little brighter. I think we're meant to be more loving more often. You know that feeling of loving someone so much that you would die for them? I think we're supposed to try to live a little closer to that, and I know you know what I'm talking about; there's at least one person for whom you would take a bullet, right? Your kid? Your mom? Think of the way your chest swells up when you imagine that possibility. That's love. And I'm pretty sure that that's what we're talking about when we're talking about Lent. I don't think that God wants us to go any deeper into the darkness that we live in every day. I think we're supposed to find new ways to live closer to the light.
And listen, you don't have to believe in any of it. You don't have to believe in Jesus or that he actually was nailed to a cross and actually rose from the dead three days later. You don't. But you do have to believe in love. You do. And you have to believe that you were born with a light in you. You know the way that babies are kind of luminescent without even trying? That's it. That's what it is. But we lose that over the years, as we get older and cynical and tired and sad. Life wears on us. It's hard to access that thing we came here with, but I'm pretty sure that's the point: to represent. And to do it in the way that says...here it is: ME!...never before and never again! And to be pleased with that. To get that you are, very much, beloved by something really great and infinite.
And you have to believe in hope and healing and redemption. You do. Because it's the only way out of this incredibly hard human condition. You have to turn away a little bit from the things that don't matter and spend your energy on the things that do. The message is as simple as that. Keep eating the chocolate ice cream and swearing; watch your favorite crappy TV show and drink lots of coffee. These are the things that make us so absurdly human. But when you walk away from the refrigerator or the remote control, pay attention to the people around you. Listen to them. Talk to them. Love it up. Love every goddamned bit of it up. Because somewhere down the line, and maybe not too far from now, it will all be ashes, again.