Wednesday, March 5, 2014 – Ash Wednesday, Year Two[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 95, 32, 143 (morning) // 102, 130 (evening)
My husband and I observe Ash Wednesday the way that some couples observe Valentine’s Day. We do acknowledge Valentine’s Day with perhaps a sweet card and / or a piece of chocolate. But Ash Wednesday, which often falls near Valentine’s Day, is the day that calls us to remembrance about our life’s high calling to cherish each other, to cleanse our hearts, and to live without regrets.
I’m not sure how this pattern got started in our relationship, but I do remember watching my husband receive ashes several years ago–before we were married–and realizing with enormous sadness how quickly life passes, and how the only thing worth having is love. Spending Ash Wednesday together has become an essential annual reminder of this truth. Even after I got ordained, I remember presiding at one Ash Wednesday service and then simply attending another service alongside my husband.
Ash Wednesday reminds us to get rid of all the garbage that keeps us from living authentic lives of love. Our reading from Hebrews this morning understands that in order to live lives of faith, hope, and love, we need to let a whole lot of things go: “let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” So shake off all of that garbage. Lay it aside. Peel it away. Watch it dissolve. Because life passes away quickly, and the only thing worth having is love.
The garbage in our lives often comes creeping back. I spent a good portion of yesterday overcome by flashes of grief because a parishioner I know died very suddenly on Monday night. And yet even on a day when I was so sharply aware that life is fleeting and that only love matters, I still managed to get irritated at my husband for parking the car in the wrong place, and he managed to get irked at me for not answering my cell phone when he tried to double check where he was supposed to park the car.
How do our hearts lose perspective on life so quickly? The garbage of our lives finds its grip and keeps piling on until we are carrying a whole lot of crippling weight. We start focusing on and carrying around things that simply aren’t important–quibbles and burdens that make us forget how quickly life passes away, and how the only thing worth having is love. Then, we make it barely a few paces before this high-speed race of life is over, and we didn’t make it to all of the places and all of the people who needed us.
What garbage will you get rid of this Ash Wednesday? What blocks your way and clouds your deep sense that life passes so very quickly, and that love is absolutely the only thing worth holding onto? Whatever that garbage is, send it straight to the incinerator, and instead wrap your fingers around someone you just can’t bear to let slip through.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.