Sometimes I wish I could teleport myself about 600 years back in history to a cobblestoned street in medieval France.
I’d drape a shawl around me and wind my way past peddlers and peasants and down to the city cathedral, stone, drafty, high vaulted ceilings, gargoyles on the flying buttresses, and ornate naves around each corner.
I’d go in, bow, grab a bench, kneel, and listen to harmonious singing of robed children. I’d surround myself with the beautiful, marred, but beautiful, legacy of the Church. I’d walk up, receive the elements, have an ashy cross seared onto my forehead, and somehow, in my romantic notion, I’d feel closer to God in this centuries old hallowed space.
For three months, and for the first time in my life this past year, I didn’t have to struggle to feel close to God. I felt pain, lots of it, but I felt Jesus. Now, in His goodness, He has healed so much pain, and my greatest prayer is that I don’t lose the passion for Him, the intimacy, the closeness. Lord, let my life be good again, but let me still cling to You as though it’s not.
And so, while I can’t visit Notre Dame in the 14th century in order to have some mystical God moment, I can still embrace the long honored Christian tradition of Lent. This year, it’s not something I need to give up that’s sacrificial, it’s something I need to take up.
In the pain and the closeness with Jesus, my hurting was my muse for writing, and my writing was my healing. As the healing increased, unfortunately, so much of the writing decreased. And I need it back if I’m going to keep that passion, that closeness with Jesus. Because the truth is, I’m always in need of healing. Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our mortality. From dust we came and to dust we shall return. For as long as I am bound in my mortal body, I’m bound to my sin and shame and brokenness. I always need Jesus to redeem those things. I always need to write, if healing is in the writing. And so, this year for Lent, I will be writing twice a week, mainly as a way to reflect on my life, and all God continues to unravel and re-tapestry so that I can continue to find Him in the beauty and in the ugly.
I pray God takes me to old places, cathedrals in my heart, and shows me the gold he wants to etch on its walls, the light he wants to shine through images not of stained glass, but of hopes and dreams and purposes and passions. I pray, like Jean val Jean in Les Mis, I sing before a crucified, but risen Jesus, and ask “Who Am I?” and just continue to hear God say, “You are Beloved.” And that in my heart, and in that altar with Jesus in my heart, being God’s Beloved would be and remain enough.