On this Ash Wednesday, I explore the Christian tradition of Lent and invite a transformed perception and experience of the coming 40 days in preparation for the celebration of Easter.
When I was a Perfectionist
Today, millions (perhaps billions) of Catholics around the world will attend the Ash Wednesday observance, receive the cross of ashes on their forehead and be told: “Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” When I was still recovering from my innate and learned perfectionism and enmeshed in my pain story of rejection, the annual Lenten observance was my favorite time of year. With its focus on the depraved human condition, our birth into “original sin” and how we have been rejected by God and must spend eternity trying to earn back God’s approval, Lent provided the perfect opportunity for me to indulge my inner victim through 40 days of self-flagellation, “woe is me….I am a sinner.” Lent was the time that my inner perfectionist truly shined.
Lent from the Other Side
In the past 25 or so years of spiritual exploration, inner growth and healing, I have come to embrace some truths that invite me to explore Lent from another perspective. First and foremost, I have come to embrace the truth that Jesus taught: that we are One with God in love….always have been, always will be and there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. If this is true…then where does original sin fit in and this idea that we have been rejected, abandoned by God? I know we perceive ourselves as separate from God, and there is a longing in our soul to return to God. But, as Jesus explained, we are not separate, it just seems that we are. If this Oneness in love that Jesus spoke of is true, then what is the point of our Lenten observance?
A New Lent
Perhaps Lent is about the things we can do to REMEMBER this Oneness that Jesus spoke of. When we are healed of this perception of separation, we know compassion, contentment and joy and live in harmony with each other, working for mercy and justice. Who wouldn’t want that???? Here is how we might be invited to observe Lent from a new perspective:
- Embrace a Spiritual Practice – prayer, meditation, contemplation, mindfulness, creative endeavors, active contemplation, journaling, singing, dancing, etc.
- Partake in Ritual Observance – from a new perspective…..the perspective of embracing Oneness instead of celebrating your “sin”.
- Acknowledge the places you are in need of healing – Where do you experience yourself as separate from God? What are the fears, false perceptions and ego attachments you have embraced due to the perception of separation? What is your pain story and how is God inviting that to be healed? What are the behaviors that have arisen out of your fears and how can you offer those to God for healing and release?
- Embrace the truth of Unconditional Love –God is love and you are made of love. You are loved without condition and all God wants is for your to remember this love. God holds us in pure acceptance as we move through the trials and tribulations of the human condition and rejoices in our learning, our growth and our healing. Judgment, condemnation, guilt are ours alone….God simply loves.
- Ask for healing and forgiveness – While the need for forgiveness is ours alone, it is a true human need to say we are sorry when we hurt others or hurt ourselves. We can say sorry to God and sorry to those we have hurt in our woundedness. God is happy to listen and hold space for our repentant hearts and we can rest in the knowledge that God’s love is TRULY UNCONDITIONAL. (Re-read the story of the Prodigal Son if you need a reminder of how God celebrates our healing and our remembering of Oneness). Forgiveness comes when we let go of the guilt we inflict upon ourselves and the resentment we hold towards others.
From Ash Wednesday to Love Wednesday
One final thought as we step into this Ash Wednesday……I present here a new formula for our Ash Wednesday observance:
“Remember, thou art love, unto love you remain and into love you shall return.”
Authentic Freedom Ministries