Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ashes to Ashes, Light from Light

Today was Ash Wednesday, the start to Lent. Lent also happens to be, oddly enough, my favorite liturgical season. The quiet reflection and the darkness under the shadow of the cross speak to me by emphasizing the presence of God in the worst.

Much to my surprise, then, I noticed that at tonight's service people were smiling so easily. Today is a day of fasting and repentance, yet people were smiling and happy to see one another. We couldn't start this most dour and depressing of seasons with smiles, could we?

We did.

Ash Wednesday is an invitation to the darkness. An invitation to a place of reflection, penitence and growing as Christians. In the darkness, though, there is light.

If the outward sign of Lent is a downcast face, a sad heart, and overly sorrowful liturgy, then the real grace and light of Lent is lost. Lent is a time for freedom even in fasting.

Fasting from all that which would tear us away from God. Fasting from even good things from God's creation so that we might treasure them all the more. Fasting to unite ourselves in the pain, suffering and temptation of Christ and of God's beloved children.

Seeing Lent as a time of darkness and sorrow is really only part right; yes, it is a time of darkness because the cross looms over us, but it is not a time of sorrow for sorrow's sake. Put off your sackcloth, wash your face, and smile through the rumblings in your stomach. Smile for the freedom that fasting gives you for you are not bound by guilty pleasures, hateful thoughts and sin; you are united forever to the God of all creation through His Son.

From ashes you arise, and to ashes you shall return. And you shall return to the Light that created you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The one right path

I know what you're thinking, and, no, this isn't going to be about exclusivism vs inclusivism regarding salvation. It's a fascinating conversation to have, but, truth be told, it's never very helpful.

My question is about issues of living one's life. I have a problem with a relationship. I'll be purposefully cryptic, but I think I can get my point across.

What importance I should attach to a relationship that might draw me from the path I'm currently on? It would mean giving up, at least for a time, my plans and ideas and allowing myself to do something kind of carefree.

In a way, I'm asking myself if I should bind myself to the path I'm on or should I free myself for something new.

Given that I'm not old (as much as I wear "grandpa sweaters") and certainly not wise (though the beard certainly gives off that vibe), I haven't had a lot of experiences in being wild and free. As a youth, I was focused on the goal: college. And in college I was focused on the goal: grad school. Now that I'm out of college and have spent some time thinking about where I'm supposed to be / called to be, I'm realizing that I haven't spent much time not thinking about what I'm supposed to be doing.

So, after being all cryptic, what am I actually wondering?

Is there one and only one right path to take?

Surely the answer would be, "no," right? A life cannot be so strictly ordered, a human being ordained to one and only one path in life, right?

At times I'm not so sure. From childhood, not going onto college would've been seen as a huge mistake, something that couldn't be corrected. And now with the way I'm going, it feels the same way. If I don't continue this way, I will be deemed a "failure" for picking a path that isn't the expected and "correct" one.

I do understand how important it is to figure out where it is I'm supposed to be and what it is I should be doing. Wandering aimlessly is not the best position to be in. But what if the way I feel I should go (or at least seriously consider going) isn't where most everyone else thinks I should be going?

Could the life lived well in communion with God take many different paths? Could more than one of them be good and right for me?