Just more than a month ago with the feel of ashes placed on our foreheads, we began this Lenten journey into the wilderness. Time has passed. In many ways it feels like a lifetime has passed. And now many of us find ourselves sheltering in place. It's really hard to get my head around what has changed so quickly for all of us. What was to have been a path in and through the wilderness, has brought us now to a time of foreign words like “social isolating,” “social distancing.”
For me it's an emotional dance to pay attention to how I am navigating my way with this universal ordering of alone time. It's that differentiating between being alone and being lonely. The quiet can be an intentional time for reflection or it can slide into a time of emptiness and loneliness. When I'm scared or lonesome it's easy for me to lose my compass, my north star. It's easy for me to get either ramped up or find myself shutting down. It’s easy to feel completely lost in this new wilderness.
So, for right now I'm closing my eyes and remembering back to that Ash Wednesday night when this wilderness journey began. During the worship service that night when it came time for the ashes, we lined up and walked down the center aisle to receive them. The practice at our church is that after you receive your ashes, you turn and put the ashes on the one coming next. Person-to-person. In receiving the ashes, we are told, "from dust you have come, to dust you shall return." And now just these few weeks have passed, and these words feel stitched across my heart, "dust to dust." With those words echoing in my ears, and the ashes on my forehead, I/we began this Lenten journey.
Journaling. Sketching. Doodling. Stretching. Praying. Listening. These are words that speak to intention. These are words that invite the `fulness' words to companion: Mindfulness. Faithfulness. Prayerfulness. Fearfulness. Tearfulness. Trustfulness. Gracefulness. Gratefulness.
Each day, sometimes each hour of each day I am aware of breathing - in and out, in and out. Most every time, I find it helpful to try to slow breathing down, expanding what is going out and what is coming in. If I can slow down the rushing and scurrying, slow down the thoughts that get trapped in an endless loop, if I can slow all that down and come back to my breath -- then – then I feel reconnected to my compass.
These are days that we never in our wildest dreams would have thought we would be living in. These are days that feel like they are both too much and not enough at the very same time. It matters to me to not lose sight of the beginning of this Lenten journey. It matters to remember the night when we began, when we first stepped out. When I remember that service on that last Wednesday night in February, my heart holds the tenderness of the words as my sister, Claudia placed the ashes on my forehead. I am remembering the love I saw in the eyes of my friend, Kent as she received her ashes from me, “From dust you have come to dust you will return.” That is how I am now mindful of this journey’s intention. I am mindful of the loving eyes of those two dear souls who blessed this journey for me. They could have never imagined what was ahead for us, for all of us. What they knew in those moments of beginning was that God would be with us each step of the way. Left foot, right foot.