It's hard to fathom that it's been nearly two months since my last post here, but I'm not going to get into that right here and now. No, I'd much rather focus on the present. And for me, the present has a lot to do with Lent and Ash Wednesday. I've established that Ash Wednesday is my favorite day of the Liturgical Calendar and easily my favorite non-holiday.

Okay, so maybe you've noticed that Ash Wednesday was yesterday at the time of writing—you've got me there. A lot has occurred in the past couple months including moving to the city of Denver. For several reasons, I took myself to church yesterday evening so I could participate in the Eucharist and get ashes smudged across my forehead. Sounds like a lovely experience, no?

I had decided to attend the men's group before the final 7 pm service and it truly proved enlightening. The priest walked us through the Litany of Penitence. Its incisiveness struck the most beautiful chord for me in those moments. The roomful of men following along with the liturgy and then the careful review of some of the more poignant passages after sang to my soul. The words in bold are spoken by the people and the rest is spoken by the priest.

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.


We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.


We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.


We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.


Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.


Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.


Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.


Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.


Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.


For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.


For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.


Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.


Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.


By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.


Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn
from their wickedness and live, has given power and
commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to
his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of
their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly
repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.


Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his
Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on
this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure
and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The priest pointed out that the liturgy very quickly moves to "meddling" with the level of specificity of the words. There is scarcely a stone left unturned in what it covers. Rather than an indictment of wrongdoing, I find these words to be an expansive and powerful invitation to self-examination and -awareness. The words bring tears as I read back through them once again.

One of the aspects I love most about Ash Wednesday is its focus on mortality. Remembering that we are dust—allegory to Adam—and that to dust we shall return as all things must. This cycle of life and its connection with the rest of creation is nothing short of poetic as the ashes are applied. It is a reminder that we have this one life and an implicit question: what am I doing with my one life?

One of the key experiences that led me to Ash Wednesday would actually be the Switchfoot show I attended in the DC area shortly before leaving. Suffice it to say, the divine and I were not on the best or most amicable of terms. I did not want to experience the resonant frequency that I can only describe as Mystery or Flow, but sure enough that's what I realized was happening shortly after the headlining band took the stage and Jon Foreman began his first monologue of the evening.

I find it fascinating that we describe things that we can relate to as "resonating." In the moment, as Jon was talking, I felt us reach a resonant frequency, as everything including our words are just energies at various frequencies. For those moments, I knew we had reached a resonant frequency—we were perfectly in time with one another—and I think it is these moments that are God. Those moments of pure connection, they are where I experience most divinity.

It should go without saying that I was reduced to tears in this moment as one of my cousins can attest. I'd been pretty pissed with this deity and, frankly, doubted the existence pretty heavily for some time. I knew that moving forward I couldn't completely write off Mystery. Mystery had just caressed my core through the words of a man on stage some twenty feet away.

I begin to understand why Lent can be such a tough season for the American church. Lent doesn't play nicely with much of the rest of our culture or society. This season does not respect what we take for granted, what is so ingrained in our daily lives. No, it goes out of its way to disrupt and deprive us of our daily rhythms.

Lent focuses on quieting the noise of the outer world—this is terrifying, and rightly so. It struck me this morning as I turned off the music I'd been filling the house with for several minutes that I use music to drown out the din within. It's not just music. It's my Netflix bingeing, podcasts, YouTube wormholes, festivals, social media, alcohol, adrenaline rushes, food, fill in the blank. I can turn anything into a means of silencing or just ignoring altogether the deafening emptiness inside me.

I'm no stranger to trauma and hardship, so it comes as no surprise that there is some shit that I've had to work through and still have yet to gather the courage to confront. It is this undealt with emotional injury, if you will, that robs me of energy and happiness. However, it would take effort and the courage to face the related demons within and this is daunting. This weight manifests physically and emotionally.

I find that most of the time I subconsciously acknowledge the associated pain and the ego kicks in to restore a sense of equilibrium while expending the least amount of energy. Cue numbing activity. It's a vicious feedback loop. But it works. Sort of.

It's precisely this default feedback loop that Lent confronts rather unapologetically. This season invites us, begs us even, to introspection. She ushers us into self-awareness as we quiet the external and begin to tune honestly into the internal world. Lent re-members us back into our whole and true selves that terrify us. What would happen if I embraced my light and my shadow, my divinity and humanity? What would happen if I truly lived as Jesus showed us—in the full image of God?

Fuck.

Those words send shivers up and down my spine. Greatness, or the prospect thereof, is a scary business. Being myself begins to look a little more brave. And Lent wants to lead us gently down the path back to ourselves. However, this path takes us straight into the depths of ourselves. It is filled with darkness, but a darkness swirled with light—this is the essence of being human, like it or not.

You see, Lent leads us through the wilderness all the way to the cross and resurrection. It teaches beautifully the pattern of life, all life. For new life to spring forth, there must be death to make way. Only through death can we pass from fragile and temporal to substantial.