Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. For me, it is the completion of a painting journey I have been on for the last month -- a journey to explore how we are reborn out of the “ash” of our lives; how reflecting upon this ash can rewaken our souls.
Why? Because ash is the first symbol for the Christian Lenten Season. My favorite artist and theologian, Jan Richardson, blogs in The Painted Prayerbook, “Ashes can be a thing of wonder, of rebirthing, of renewal. This day in the Christian year (Ash Wednesday), this day of ashes, tells us that ashes—dust, dirt, earth—are the stuff from which we have been made, and to which we will return. It seeks to ground us, to make us mindful of the humus, the humility, the earthiness of which our bones and flesh are made. And yet, in the midst of this, the season calls us to open ourselves to the God who brings life from ashes, who works wonders amid destruction, who cries out and grieves in the presence of devastation and terror, and who breathes God’s own spirit into the rubble.”
As I am preaching tomorrow evening, I wanted to know what that looks like. What does it look like when life is reborn from ash, when the Holy breathes Her own spirit into the rubble of our lives to bring it to life anew; to bring wholeness, fullness, Energy? I learned two important things on this painting journey.
Being reborn from ash is not a slow process where the Energy of the Holy slowly creeps in and covers the darkness of our lives, like Clifford Still’s paintings where color slowly creeps its way across the black bringing new life into the painting. I thought that when I began this journey. But as I allowed the creative process to teach me the truth of this Holy Energy, I have come to understand that is not the case. Rather, the Holy bursts forth from within us; bursts out of the box we have worked to contain Her in like a supernova exploding in space; like a flame of fire bursting up from a pile of ash and wood.
This rebirth is an explosion within our souls that unleashes a tremendous Energy to propel us forward onto a path that we otherwise would not have had the energy or willpower to take -- a path that will lead us, if we follow it, to a Re-Awakening of our Soul!
It is a tremendous gift, that Holy shove out the door of our cocoons of safety. And yet is it also a scary gift to loose the safety of that shell so quickly and, sometimes without preparation or warning. It seems to me that this is the way the Holy works. We get too comfortable, too lazy. We accept our lives the way they are. It works for us. I may not feel passionate about what I’m doing. I may feel stuck. I may feel boxed in. I may feel contained. But, that is okay because I’m comfortable and I can live with that. I’m nesting, settling....
In my life, that is when the Holy comes and bursts out of Her box cracking the shell of my cocoon and leaving me bare to the world around me. Sometimes it does not feel like a gift. This time, it feels like a gift. This time, although I was not ready, the explosion gave me enough momentum to continue down this new and inviting path of Re-Awakening and Re-Visioning.
And that leads me to the second thing I learning. This Re-Awakening and Re-Birth that starts with an explosion continues as a journey. It is all about the journey. We need that first huge burst of Holy Energy to get us started; to propels us forward out of the quicksand that has bogged us down; to give us momentum to continue down this wonderfully exciting and fearful path.
This is what Life is about: the invitation to journey as close to the Holy as we can; whatever the Holy means you. This Great Cosmic Energy in the World is inviting us to tap into Her Unending Reserve to Re-Awaken our Soul and in the process bring about justice and peace and shalom.
Know and believe that what the Holy creates and graces and blesses may be beset and broken but will not destroyed. “Life finds its way: ancient memory takes hold, follows the path of the ash, inscribes itself anew, beauty blazing from the wreck and ruin” Re-Awakening our Soul. (Jan Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook) Trust that this invitation from the Holy to set out on a journey that allows the ashes of our lives to be transformed and born anew, that invites us to tap into the Unending Energy Reserve of the Holy will Awaken our FULL selves. It is an invitation to live LARGE in the world. Unashamed. Whole. Strong. Joy-filled. Centered.
It starts with that cosmic bursting within our Souls that propels us forward; that invites us to explore where our passion is; where our hearts are most alive; where are Spirits are least contained. It beckons us to put one foot in front of the other as we follow the journey of considering what is most basic, what is elemental, what survives after all that is extraneous is burned away. It is a journey to work through the chaos stripping away layer upon layer that threatens to dulls us to the presence of the Holy, and insulates us from that Energy that can bring us to a place of full Awakening.
My advice: allow that Cosmic Energy to burst forth from your soul and follow it. It will take you to places you never dreamed of. It is worth it!!