The first Ash Wednesday service I ever attended was pretty sad. Not just sad because we were thinking about mortality and repentance – sad in the sense of a failure. I was helping to plant a church and while we’d had an exciting public launch – 5 months into it our numbers had dwindled.
I was leading music that night and was setting up the slideshow for projection in our 4th floor attic room. But just before we were to start, some folks from our host church came to take the projector for their own event. So there we were – the 6 of us singing while crowded around an old, donated laptop. We read some prayers and reflected on our mortality and our need for repentance. We received ashes.
Lent that year was so challenging. I was fasting weekly and gave up music in the car so that I could pray instead. It was probably too much all at once, but it made me very aware of my need for God. Take away a little food and my music and I was keenly aware of my how much they were coping mechanisms for me. At church, Lent was hard too – our numbers were low and we wondered if we would ‘make it’ as a plant.
But that Lent season ten years ago became a powerful time both in my life and in the life of Mosaic. Something outside of ourselves was at work. Our Holy Week services were incredibly powerful for our small crew. With Resurrection Sunday there was new light. Literally. There was an incident where a candle caught the tablecloth on fire…
Once, my 3 year old niece was upset at being given a time-out saying “This is terrible! I don’t know what’s going to happen next, this is terrible!” In that, she captured the human condition. We don’t know what will happen next and we can’t control it. Lent reminds us of this – time in the wilderness. Coming face to face with our limits. Dealing with our dependence on food, caffeine, music, or whatever it is. Waiting longer than we want to for a dating relationship. Losing a loved one. Facing transitions. Hoping for children. And we can’t know when the light will come until it does. As Florence + the machine says, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
The season of Lent reminds me that wilderness seasons are a part of life.
So as I sit with Lent this year, I come up against my limits and I am at the same time grateful and impatient. Grateful because I am reminded that I am but dust – I am limited. I have little control over circumstances. I can choose to be grateful. But I am impatient also for the dawn.
I am using the website http://www.pray-as-you-go.org as a guide for my Lenten prayer times. It has audio of a prayer and reflection time that I have found very helpful in ‘holding the space’ for meditation and prayer.