Feb. 17, 2021
And we are put on earth a little space
That we might learn to bear the beams of love.
No matter where we have lived this past year, we all have one experience in common: the pandemic. We all know how it feels to have our personal freedom and choices and pleasures denied as a deadly virus swept over the globe and continues to spread and infect. We all have experienced to a certain extent what existing in a perpetual Lent feels like. I assume you have given up some of the same things as I have: being with family during holidays; having dinner with friends; going out to eat or to the movies; attending our places of worship as a community. Further, we all are entering a second year, a second time, of honoring our seasons of atonement during this pandemic. If we knew last year what we know now and how long this would last, would we have made it to this point? Yet here we are.
We have given up and fasted from so much that it is beyond my own ability to even consider giving up something else this Lent. Instead, I have been led to reflect on giving to—giving to myself in ways that lead me closer to the Light; giving to the world through whatever it may receive or glean from my words; giving attention to beauty over ugliness; giving the practice of Love over the hate that permeates my own country, the United States; giving light instead of darkness. What the Spirit is leading me to this Lent is a journey of the heart.
In the book The Awakened Heart by spiritual psychiatrist Gerald May, now deceased yet one of my guides, he invites his readers to reflect on all the varied messages about God they have received throughout their lives—in childhood, from religious authorities, from parents, into adulthood, including their own perceptions of God. Then he advises to let all of those go—just throw them to the wind, so to speak—and to, instead, “let God be God.” We can’t, after all, put God in a box, though God knows how hard we try. Then May continues in his own grace-filled way to add, “And let you be you.” Sit with that guidance for a bit.
To let God be God requires an awful lot of trust. To let me be me requires an awful lot of compassion. So, the journey of Lent this year is a real invitation to go inward, to seek God in the holiest of holies, that place within our hearts where only God and I (or only God and you) are present. It is there, if we go with trust and with compassion, that we will begin to be able to give. Blessings to you. ~ Rosemary
What would you do
if you were invited
to enter your heart
in this season
If you were encouraged
to leave reason and judgment
behind and instead
ask grace to be your
Would you accept the flashlight
offered when you crossed
the threshold, the decoder ring
needed to decipher
each message that begs
Could you look?
Once inside, would you willingly
sift through the ashes
that have accumulated
over your life
like the layers
of cinder in your
Finger the silt-soft remains
of grief, remorse, regret,
guilt, even shame,
letting them fall
through your fingers
like the fair hair
of a child?
For here, you will hear
the stories that make you
you, filled with ashes
and hope, shadows and light, death
And after you have sat
among the ashes,
know that it is your choice
to decide which to wash away,
which to bury, and which
to hold to your heart
like a locket,
as you emerge
to breathe the bright air
© Rosemary McMahan
7 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday”
“Perpetual Lent” so true. I had never thought of it that way. I will try to let God be God and me be me on my Lenten journey.
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I think Gerald May offers the biggest challenge of my spiritual journey when he advises to let God be God and me be me. Both require, I believe, a great trust in the God of Love.
Rosemary, I’m taken by your perspective…how this has been one long Lent and “giving to myself in ways that lead me closer to the Light” will be a facet of your practice. I will welcome reading your thoughtful and heartfelt reflections during this time of “ashes to hope.” Thank you!
What beautiful and meaningful imagery to start my Lent. Thank you, Rosemary. What springs to my mind is sitting at the centre of a labyrinth, sifting and letting go. Being..allowing..inviting..
stripping away..resting. Then slowly standing and with a quiet eagerness, journey back out slowly and deliberately, each day a tiny bit more transformed as I make my way back out through the Cross and into the Resurrection Light that awaits me at the entrance. Joel 2:12:
“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart”. May the flashlight and decoder rings along my way bring me closer to the deep and sacred source of my being.
I’m so grateful for your starting me on my way.
The image of the labyrinth is a perfect one, standing in the center at the heart of God with our own hearts. Thank you, Chris.
Not sure what to say. So much of what you said and wrote speaks meaning to me. So for now, I will sit with the words of your poem and let God be God and let me just BE…..me?
Yes! It is a real challenge, isn’t it? Yet how life-giving and freeing. Thanks for sharing.