Lent: Beginning

amywink February 15th, 2018

I attended my first Ash Wednesday service yesterday. I spent a long time contemplating whether I wanted to attend or not, whether I’d benefit from the service, what it might mean to me. I came back to church, the practice of church, last year in the middle of Lent, March 19, and I have spent the last year learning church, which means I have also spent a fair amount of time thinking “am I doing this right? I don’t think I’m doing this right. Have I done (said) something stupid? Any second, I’m going to really screw this up.”

When I was considering joining FUMC-Austin, I talked with my best friend, Kristi, a life-long church-goer, and asked her “does this seem weird for me?” She’s been my friend for over 30 years. She’d know what was out of character. I wanted to check since I was also in the first year of grief and slowly rebuilding my life. It’s a weird time. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing something wrong, making a big mistake (you see how this is a problem for me). To say I had attended church sporadically in my life would be grand hyperbole so it did see a little odd that I’d consider joining a church after not being a church-goer for forty-three years. She didn’t think it was a mistake and she was right. I loved it, loved it like shelter, loved it like sanctuary and I was in the right place.

Church is not the same thing as faith and I have always held onto my faith, even though I didn’t attend church. Attending church was a step toward being more public with my faith but I wasn’t sure how to be “Christian” in a way that was the way I felt as a person of faith, mostly because of the way “Christian” has become in public is not the way I am.

It did not take long to become involved as I vowed to try to be a little more daring, attending book discussions and finding a place. I was enjoying everything so much I began to worry and checked in again with Kristi: “I worry that I am enjoying church too much.”

“It’s not heroin” she texted.

And she was right, of course, and something in me finally opened and I decided it was okay to love this and it was also okay to let myself become who I am.

Except the person that I am also worries, especially when doing I’m doing something new, or just after I’ve taken a step out of an old pattern, or taken an enormous risk, or decided to attend the Ash Wednesday service. “Am I doing this right? Am I screwing up? I’m totally going to screw up. That was stupid. You were really stupid.”

And so, on this first Thursday of Lent, when I am contemplating my sins, this is the one that comes to me, clear as a bell, saying “that was really stupid.” Here is the thing that gets between me and God, the fear of not doing it right, of making a mistake.

“Consider the lilies of the field, Amy” Jesus says, “they neither toil nor spin.” And I reply “but. . . .” and I turn down the gift of faith.

In the next forty days, I will try to accept the gift.

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