A Chronology of Paying Attention (7): Tamara is a living AND dying palm, part 2
A repost from Ash Wednesday 2011 which happened to fall exactly on my 40th birthday:
Part 2 of this story is that this year my birthday landed on Ash Wednesday. Not just any birthday, either; my fortiethbirthday. Ashes ended up feeling quite appropriate, as it turns out.
Having grown up without the church calendar, I'm not really sure if it's gauche to take pictures of yourself with the mark of the cross? Either way, I figured it was my birthday so who'd give me too much trouble?
When I'd proceeded forward to receive the charred palm thumbed onto my forehead, the priest said, "Turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." I couldn't help but think that may be the most appropriate birthday greeting I've ever been given. Turn away from all the failures, rebellions, missed opportunities, unbelief of the past thirty-nine years and live faithfully to the Gospel instead.
Perhaps this is why all my mind could reply, waiting in the unprogrammed silence for the priest to wash his blackened hands, lyrics from Failed Christian:
I'm a failed Christian / I don't go to Church / I smoke and I drink / And I lie and I curse
Which isn't totally true of me, of course. I still go to church. Also, I am giving up cursing for Lent. But the feeling of being a failed Christian overwhelmed me as I contemplated the admonishing words, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel". Obviously, I can't make that happen. Before I get home, I'll be turning toward sin in one form or another. I'm prone to wander and I need mercy.
Later, when the doorbell rang, I headed toward the front of the house a bit sheepish about opening the door with the black smudge on my forehead. Until I relieved the delivery man of the gigantic birthday bouquet from my sweet sister and noticed he had the same smudge.
"Boy he got you good there." He shoved back his cap further and motioned toward his own misshapen hash line underneath a mop of silvery hair.
"Yep, I guess he did. I just came from there, though."
"So did I!" He chuckled and moved back toward the porch door. "Have a good holiday. Even though it won't be here for awhile."
Forty-six days until resurrection holiday. Thirty-nine whole years mixed up full of birth, life, death, rebirth, sin and the Gospel. Plus this day. This new day of a new decade. I wished I'd asked that old florist what he was giving up these days before the holiday. I'm giving up cussing, Diet Pepsi (it's taken me three years to be willing to do this), television, movies and facebook. In their place, I'm hoping to pray more, write more, be more present and prayerful in my neighborhood and for the rest of the world. We're not eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Mostly because that's just one more way to join the saints of old -- including, probably, the silver-haired flower man on my porch.
Lent is not intended to be an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. It is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges.
Put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ. In him--in his suffering and death, his resurrection and triumph--we find our truest joy.
—Dorothy Sayers, Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
In this season that I do not have time to write, this is the idea God gave me: For me to ponder and notice again the words I've already written once, to keep praying the beads of memory to discover this sacramental life.
Won't you join me?
I'd welcome your company along the way.
Do you know the meaning of your name, and why your parents chose it?