I just had to do it. This morning I emailed my friend in North Carolina because today is a day we always loved to share. I remember standing with him outside, crushing the old palm branches of last year, putting them in a little pot, and burning them. We sat & watched them burn, making black, thick ashes. Then we mixed them with a little bit of oil and waited for the evening to come.
Early evening came & people filled in the seats as we began reading words reminding us who we are, what we’ve done, and what we’ve left undone in our lives. We gathered together to remind ourselves to return to the path we had once been on, to remember that we are called to be true to who we are created to be, to be true to ourselves; and to seek the way of the wilderness, which amazingly leads to love & wholeness.
The most powerful part of these nights was having people walk down to the front where my friend & I stood. I dipped my finger into the black ashes, looked into the eyes of the person standing in front of me, reminded them that they are loved, and marked a cross on their forehead. Amazing.
Yes, I missed those moments today. But I celebrated in a completely different way. I went to church to work this morning, but we have had no service like those I shared with my friend. Still, it was a great day of chatting with people (and we talked about doing the service next year if I’m still there!).
The rest of the day I was at my internship, my second job. I worked from 1 – 10 (which means I’m actually still working) so I had no time to go to a service at another church. However, this has been just as good. Of course the ritual of ash wednesday is powerful & important, but at this point in my life, being in the midst of people takes center stage. Perhaps this is my wilderness, my challenge. Living life in the middle of society, among all kinds of people, with all kinds of lives & backgrounds feels just as amazing, just in another way.
I still am reminded of who I am, who I have been, and who I am called to be in the middle of this crazy & beautiful world. I am still reminded of the importance of using these next 40 days to find my way again, through the wilderness, and to a life filled with love that spills over to everyone I meet.
So what am I gonna do for the next 40 days? I’m gonna find some balance… spending time with myself & with others. I’ve spent these few moments writing and it’s now time to turn back to the youth & my co-workers around me.
Try to take some time for yourself too.. you deserve it. Wishing you a peaceful, beautiful night, my friends. (and forgive my crazy grammar/writing mistakes. hehe).