I thought I was rushing home to watch the Olympics.
I only saw one person today at work with the ashen cross on his forehead, and it made me a little sad that my church doesn't do an Ash Wednesday service. I have to be honest with you, I'm not sure that I've ever ever ever been to one. At least not one when I ended up with ashes on my forehead. Which is probably a requisite of an Ash Wednesday service. :)
As I traversed the few blocks from the train to my apartment building, I was contemplating my spiritual life. I feel as though I haven't really developed a relationship with God like I could, and I realized that I don't want to open myself up fully to God because that means I'd have to let go of some of my control over my own life. So I prayed that God would speak to me, right then and there, about His love for me.
About three seconds later I noticed the parking sign outside the Lutherin church I live near. Hm... I thought, I betcha they've got a service.
And sure enough, they did. And it started at 7pm. The current time: 6:59.
Well, then, I had to go in, didn't I?
I hadn't stepped foot in that church in about 9 years, even though I've walked past it every single day of those years. Now don't get me wrong, I have my own church. I'm not saying that I haven't been to church, just that I haven't been to that one.
And it was an awesome experience. The service was definitely very--Lutherin, very traditional. I enjoyed doing that sing/chant thing and going forward to kneel for communion and the ashes. Although I had no idea how the whole process worked so I'm sure I marked myself as a novice when I was a bit late in noticing that everyone had formed two nice orderly lines and I was standing right in the middle of the aisle. :)
But I was touched during that service. The minister spoke of how Jesus told the people not to give outward shows of ostentatious fasting, but to hide it. But in the US, in the city of Chicago at least, it seems that most Christians swing the other way and hide their faith so deeply that no one even knows they're Christian. Which is one reason why Ash Wednesday is such a cool thing. Not only does it remind us that we are but ashes to ashes in this life (hooray for the eternal body that believers will be given in heaven--mine will have a six-pack), but it also points out not only the "us" that is instrumental in a God-Me relationship, but the "us" that is evident in the body of believers. When you walk around with a cross on your forehead, it's pretty obvious your faith.
I was also convicted tonight. We did a few prayers of repentance, and each one resonated deeply within me. I have put myself first and attempted to control my life because to some extent I didn't believe that God really has my best interests at heart. And I am sorry for that, because I know in my head that God has some great amazing plans for me.
When I went forward and received the ashes on my forehead, I got to experience the palpable reality that we are but walking the hyphen between our birth dates and our death dates, and that what matters most is Christ. So what truly am I doing with my life? And what do I need to do?
The minister did that thing at the end of the service where he stood out on the steps and "greeted" us all as we left. I felt like I should shake his hand--I rather wanted to shake his hand--to thank him for truly "ministering" to me tonight. But everyone in front of me pretty well just nodded at him and kept walking, so I did the same. But oddly enough, after I started up the sidewalk to my building, I felt a pressure on my hand, as if I had just shaken the minister's hand.
And I knew what it was I felt--or rather, Whom. I knew it was God's hand I had shaken, God's hand I held in mine. And I asked Him what He wants of me. "Get your act together," He spoke into my heart. "Get your act together because I have so much I want to do with you, only your life needs to be in order first."
So here I go, attempting to get my life in order. But at least I know always that His hand is in mine... or rather, my hand is in his.
I'm an inspired dreamer, a social loner, a skeptic optimist... to wit: A writer.
I love Jesus and He loves me. Ask me about Him sometime and I'll tell ya that even being at the bottom of His barrel is better than being on the top of the world's heap.