Lent 2017: No to Moving On

Sometimes, when we have the discipline to make space in our lives, we're making room for sorrow, grief, or longing. No wonder we stay busy.

My pastor's Ash Wednesday homily was about lament. She said she was giving up faking it for Lent, that she isn't going to act like she's fine when she's not, that she's going to resist the cultural expectation that we "move on" from grief and loss.

Loretta and I went up together to receive ashes. Loretta was all about it, reminding me just how much we need these physical rituals. The mixture of palm ash and almond oil was marked in the shape of a cross on our foreheads, my pastor looked us in the eye, and said, "From dust you came, to dust you will return. You are God's beloved." Try staying dry-eyed through that!

I've always loved that Ash Wednesday is about death--no beating around the bush. We came from dust, we'll return to it, and in-between, our life is made richer by love and letting ourselves mourn.

This Lenten season, I'm saying "No" to moving on--no to staying on the sunny side of life or encouraging others to when what really needs to happen is sorrow or repentance.

God of life and of death, if I turn around and really face this world of ours, I'm overwhelmed with its beauty and its pain. I'm sad about famines, heat waves, melting ice caps, and disappearing islands. My heart breaks to think about families who fear deportation, sneaking around to buy groceries or use an emergency room. I can hardly believe the rise of hate crimes in this country--over 90 bomb threats to Jewish community centers in the last 8 weeks, for instance!

Even before I resist what's going on, even before I wear t-shirts and make phone calls, I am hereby SAD. Though your beauty finds me every day--in my children, in the mountains that surround my town, in poetry--I refuse to be prematurely cheered up. For this 40 days, I'll stay right here, not moving on, trusting that these tears somehow help usher in a different reality. Amen.