Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Ash Wednesday, What Does it Mean?
In case you can’t read the quote in the collage, it says “God…is never thwarted or caught napping by the circumstances of our lives…We know that God will take our difficulties and weave them with purposes we cannot see as yet…No matter what life lands in our laps, if we will only trust God and wait – and never lose heart – the song we sing one day will be of victory. – The time will come when faith becomes sight.” Rebecca Manley Pippert
Reassuring words for sure, but words that have, at times lately, almost become unbelievable, and that has been unsettling because I have been a woman of faith for a long time. Now, this Lenten season, I am choosing to believe the faith will become sight, eventually, and I am just going to trust.
It is a turning point for me, a maturing of my faith, I hope. The past year or so has been one of looking outside my own narrow picture of faith and seeing how others define faith, of being open-minded, of identifying with the words of David Brown when he said, “I was taught that there was only one right way to believe in God, but I always knew there was something wrong about believing I was the only one who was right." That has been part of my problem, being taught that “our way” is the only right way, that “we” have all the right answers.
The thing is, I have spent time being opened up and my beliefs are all laid out on the table along with the new ideas, and right now, everything is all jumbled up. I need to get things put back together in a way that suits me, in the way that God meant it to be for me. I have been stumbling around in the dark with a flashlight that barely works, while, over there, on the table, there is a brighter bulb and a stronger battery waiting to be put in my feeble little light.
Oswald Chambers has said, “Always keep your life measured by the standards of Jesus. Bow your neck to His yoke alone, and to no other yoke whatever; and be careful to see that you never bind a yoke on others that is not placed by Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us out of the way of thinking that unless everyone sees as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one liberty, the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.
Don’t get impatient, remember how God dealt with you with patience and with gentleness; but never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it.
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” not “make converts to your opinions.”
I have had a few yokes placed on me that were never intended to be placed upon me. I have had my faith judged as coming up short because my faith did not look like the faith of the one judging me. It’s part of growing up to identify those false yokes and to cast them aside. It is not always easily done, tossing those old yokes to the dung heap. It almost feels sacrilegious.
One thing I have realized is that I have a chip on my shoulder the size of Dallas concerning some of the trials that I have been facing and I know that I need to rid myself of that big fat chip, but I am not sure exactly how to do that. Some of the chip is related to resentment that I have failed at living the idealized Christian life I was taught to pursue. There is also the self-judgment that tends to swallow me up, which isolates me from others as well as God.
But today, I am going to lay down all my self-righteous sanctimony that says “we” don’t need to make a big deal of the Lenten season because “we” are devoted all year long. I am going to figure out something, a ritual -- something added to my life -- something given up, something that will symbolize, to me, my coming back to God with a searching, open and willing heart. I am seeing it as a season of renewal.
I don’t know for sure what it means, or how it will look. I don’t know whether I will write again about it in here. All I know is that I am going to lay aside my spiritual uppityness and see if I can find God again, or if I can at least catch His attention so that He can find me. I’ve been feeling a little lonesome lately.
(And if you are wondering about my use of the words “we” and “our way” when talking about the way my faith was taught to me, instead of just saying “I” and “me”, part of the reason is to highlight how exclusive those words are, how that kind of thinking puts others off. When I use words like “we” and “our way”, I automatically create a group that includes some people while leaving others out. When I speak only of my own individual feelings and beliefs, I leave room for others to feel and believe differently. I leave room for acceptance, in my own individual opinion, that is.)