The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
I know this blog is about life with Ev, but sometimes a brief diversion is necessary. Of course, this diversion reflects many things about the way Ev is being raised so in an around the bush way, this post is part of Ev’s story, too. I began attending a lovely Presbyterian church with Evan a little over a year ago, and in all my years in the church, I have never been part of a more authentic and loving church body. They have changed the way I look at church.
I continue to have new experiences there. Yesterday, I attended my first ever Ash Wednesday service. For a girl who grew up in the church, this seems odd, I know, but my previous churches always stigmatized such things as “ritualistic” and communal prayer as “vain repetitions”. I realize now how wrong they were–how they missed entirely the beauty of the liturgical calendar with its movement from life to death to resurrection–the turning and returning of our lives toward God. I realize the rhythmic cadence of the liturgy enriches my soul, and each of these experiences awakens in me a new understanding of the traditions of my faith.
I really didn’t know what to expect at the Ash Wednesday service. In fact, I felt a bit nervous at the thought of all the “unknowns”, but soon my fears were allayed. The service itself was stunningly simple, but rich in meaning. As a collective community, we confessed our sin before one another and before God. I have come to love this ritual of communal confession; it’s powerful and purifying even as it connects us more deeply with one another. It requires a certain level of transparency and vulnerability that deepens intimacy and encourages authenticity.
The music during the service, while more somber, was beautiful and reflective. We sang together, “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul..Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul…” I felt the goosebumps rise on my body when the pipe organ swelled and the congregation belted out, “and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on…and through eternity, I’ll sing on.” Long after the last chord resonated though the sanctuary, my spirit was rejoicing in the beauty of those words. When we prayed together, “Creating God, still Center of the world you have made, we come to you in this season of turning and returning…we return to you and turn toward you”, my heart was ready to listen.
“Dust you are and to dust you will return,” the Pastor said to each of us as he marked our foreheads with ashes in the sign of the cross. What beautiful symbolism! The ashes on our forehead are a sign and reminder of our mortality. When we look at them, we remember our finiteness and confess all the broken bits of our lives. We acknowledge that only the infinite grace of God can restore us to wholeness.
From the first moment to the last, the Ash Wednesday service drew my focus toward God’s wondrous love. Instead of giving something up for lent, the pastor encouraged us to go inward and have a lenten season of reflection, a time of contemplating what good God would have us do. My heart was nearly bursting with the desire to pour myself out for God.
All day today, I find myself sitting in the pastor’s challenge and contemplating what good God would have me do. Although I feel that there is something specific God will reveal to me over the next 40 days, I know already some of the good God is calling me to do: God is calling me to kindness and mercy. He is calling me to practice lovingasawayofliving. As Mother Theresa said, “We are called to be contemplatives in the heart of the world — by seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time…”
And so I seek God’s face.
I seek his face in that difficult child in my music class. I seek God’s face in the person who impatiently flips me off on the freeway when I’m driving slower because of the weather. I seek God’s face in the Facebook “unfrienders” who are quick to judge and slow to forgive. I seek God’s face in the homeless and those in need God sends across my path. I seek God’s face in the “unloveables”, the kids who are rejected by the church or parents for one reason or another.
I seek the face of God in everything, remembering always my finiteness in the presence of his infiniteness. I do this because I know the truth: Dust I am and to dust I will return.
And in the end, seeking the face of God is all that really matters.