Too Mutch

...a safe place to dance with ideas, play with theology, and re-create a life implicated by God

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lenten Reflections from a Hospice Chaplain #1

Yes, it is late...and I don't have the staying power to generate a new entry tonite, so I'm cheating--a little. The following is something I labored over a couple of weeks ago now. Another chaplain and I at work have decided to write a weekly Lenten reflection for our entire staff, sent out over email. I'd like to share with you what I wrote on Ash Wednesday. In the weeks following, I will have a couple more to share with you. Plus, I hope to throw some other things in too. Maybe something about fasting. Perhaps something from my Nouwen reading. OR--this week I'll be working with my buddy Micah to prepare a worship gathering for his church. Maybe I'll share some thoughts from that, too. But for now...

Here it is...and as always...I welcome your feedback, critique, insights...

I met a woman for the first time today at one of our long term care facilities. A stunning woman with a lot of years behind her...a woman with a story to tell. And though she is only able to utter a few soft words, they will only emerge from her depths with great effort, yet full of grace and beauty. Today, one word has been seared into the core of my being. I don't need the wet, black ash smeared onto my forehead unique to Ash Wednesday. I have the word "afraid" tattooed on my heart to remind me of my mortality. This lovely work of art could barely speak the word through her tears. The nurse who was with me told me that she had experienced a delightful and terrible array of emotions from this woman, but had never seen her cry. Why today? Why was she crying outside of the chapel following the Ash Wednesday service?

While we were visiting with her and trying to put all these puzzle pieces together, an employee of the facility stopped by and spent a couple of minutes trying to cheer the woman up...suggesting that she should exchange the tears for smiles. So, we have one young woman attempting to draw another woman out of this place of tearful sobriety. Which woman, I ask myself, is on the Lenten journey? Which one is really "doing okay”?

Lent is a journey, sort of an annual pilgrimage that doesn't require a passport, celebrated through much of the history of the Christian community. As any significant journey has, it contains a point of origin and a destination. A beginning and an end. Start. Finish. And points of significance along the way.

Why participate in this journey? It is, for many, a deeply significant journey. Yes, for some it has been routine. For some, a misunderstood religious tradition. It was for the bulk of my life, anyway. But rather than discard those things which have become tarnished, why not re-explore, re-engage, and re-imagine? That's what I hope this series of "deep thoughts on Lent" will be for those of you that are interested.

So, finally, what is this journey about anyways!! It is a phenomenal journey of reconciliation, rebuilding, and transformation. At its starting point is Ash Wednesday, where we come face to face with our mortality and our brokenness. Maybe it is personal brokenness or a particular struggle that plagues. Perhaps it is a relationship that has lost traction. Maybe a rhythm of life that is way out of "sync." On Ash Wednesday, we sit and acknowledge some of these things. And, perhaps, we will cry. Maybe we will be afraid or regretful or tired or frustrated. Just as I would say to my new friend (if she could catch the lingo)--It's all good. Today is a good day to be sober and reflective. Today is the start of the journey. Thankfully, it is ONLY the start. We do not finish here. We don't. Not here. Not if HE can help it.

In the Gospel accounts of the last days of the life of Jesus, the disciples were stunned, perplexed. Though this man they had followed for three years had told them how the journey was going to end, they did not want him to start the journey into Jerusalem. They were completely confounded that he would walk the path that led directly to death. Yes, dead man walking. What was he thinking? Why engage and encounter death? Why suffer the frustrations of mortality? Why? Because it was ONLY the beginning of the journey.

From dust we have been made and to dust we will return. Ash Wednesday sets us on the path, though it be a rocky one. We sit and acknowledge our brokenness, our pain, our junk. And, in a weird, melancholic and fascinating way, it feels good. Off the chest, so to speak. Breathe. It's a long journey. But don't let your eyes be cast down too long. Stop, occasionally, and peek ahead. Read the last page. There is a destination to this journey and it is the spring from which pours forth reconciliation, wholeness, health, love, beauty, and restoration.

For the next several weeks leading up to Easter, the chaplains here will be offering some short reflections for the Lenten Journey. On Wednesdays, we will send out an email to the staff, which has been written by one of the three of us. We recognize it isn't for everyone, so no offense will be taken by a gentle touch of the delete button! And, of course, your feedback, ideas, and questions are always welcomed.

Join us, if you will, on this journey from brokenness to breathtaking wholeness.



At 11:59 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

This is a beautifully written and graceful invitation into the Lenten journey. I like that no passport is required. The way you honor the older woman who tattooed you with the word "afraid" is so life-affirming. I look forward to the other Lenten meditations.


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