Ash Wednesday

From the desk of Mary Pandiani

Ash Wednesday

“Whoever you are, you are human.
Wherever you are, you live in the world,
which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.” 

Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

Being human. It’s our reality. I’ll confess I don’t particular like being human.
That’s not entirely true. I love the gift of life, the everyday-ordinariness of watching people connect, the longing that draws us towards the depth of wholeness, among the many gifts of what being human means. But the other stuff – the failings, the limits, the disappointments – these and so many other places of resistance cause a deep sadness.
In the substrata of my being, I want all to be reconciled and good, in others and myself. With a metaphor I described recently at our Selah retreat, I find myself falling into an abyss of profound bafflement at this being human.

What does this abyss have to tell me?
A friend suggests the practice of awareness versus analysis through her question, “Why don’t you sit for awhile on one those ledges you described in your abyss?”
Sit, linger, allow all that is happening around you to be what it is, nothing more.
Gradually my eyes adjust to the darkness of the abyss, my heart slows in the quietness of the silence, and I open to the Spirit’s encounter.
Slowly an awakening sheds light on the origin of my sadness and frustration.

It’s not that I don’t want to be a human being. Like I said early, I actually love so much of what it means to be human. What I don’t like is that I too often focus on life as a human “doing.” I’m tired, exhausted is more like it, from all that I expect of myself to do. Similar to the message of the African guides who ultimately halt the fast pace of Westerner’s safari trip and go no further, I need to “let my soul catch up with body.”
That’s what being human means. The soul works with the body.
Certainly, being human means there is doing. But the orientation in which I allow my soul and body to work together through the grace of God brings about a rhythm to life.

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
For Lent I’ve been pondering about my focus during the 40-day period of reflection. The 40 days represent the 40 days Jesus walked in the wilderness which the season then culminates with the observance of the Passion Week, a time of walking with Jesus through the Last Supper, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Resurrection by celebrating Easter. The Spirit stirs within me this question – what does it mean to be human in light of the life, human-yet-divine life of Jesus the Christ? Today on Ash Wednesday, I bring my first reflection, with the intention of providing one each week during Lent until Easter.
Together we’ll look at our human story with Jesus’ story.