[guestpost]Today is Ash Wednesday, the first of the forty days of Lent. For those who are unfamiliar (as was I), Lent is a six-week preparation time for Easter, an invitation to pull back from ordinary life and engage more deeply with God. It involves prayer, fasting, repentance and a conscious awareness of our mortality and the need to be ‘right’ before God. One of the people who gave me new insight about Lent is my friend, Mikkee Hall. Mikkee is a ghostwriter, editor and has been a vital part of my team here at MicheleCushatt.com for several months. Recently, she shared with me her unique experience with Ash Wednesday, and how it impacted her life. That is why today I’ve invited Mikkee to pull up a chair and share her story here, with us. Please welcome my friend, Mikkee Hall. [/guestpost]
I am marked. At first, I tried hiding it. The scar was an angry red mark across my neck. Constantly aware of its presence when I wore a necklace or ate a piece of chewy bread. I carried my own weather barometer with me, whenever a storm was coming, my scar would tingle and prickle.
Slowly over the course of a couple years, the scar’s fierce red faded and the scar tissue inside lessened, allowing me to more freely eat bread again. I religiously followed my surgeon’s orders, massaging vitamin E oil in and around the scar, morning and night for over a year. It didn’t seem like the time I took twice a day was making any difference, but then one day, my scar was barely visible.
My physical scar is now a talisman of a deep spiritual healing. A sign of God’s love and grace.
A Lenten story of healing
My surgery fell on Ash Wednesday, March fourth of that year, and that Lenten spring season was a rich tapestry of learning more deeply of God’s love. For me. It was a time of healing, even though I didn’t understand it to be happening, it came on slowly.
That Ash Wednesday I left behind fear on the operating table. A life-threatening illness reoriented me and taught me about God’s love and how he heals the wounds of the past when we open ourselves to his healing. That Good Friday, I remember sitting in the service and crying. I’d never understood the depth of Christ’s sacrifice and the amount of love he had for me in the same way.
Following my surgery, I was out of work and any type of activity. I faced two weeks of recovery time. I read and prayed and meditated. Up until that point, I’d never had that much time where I wasn’t working or out with friends or completing a project. And it was before the days of the smartphone, where I would have binged on Netflix.
Instead, I watched spring come and renew the nature around me. I sat on my front porch steps and watched the flowers and trees burst into blossom. I was caught up in the mystery of spring and the renewal of life and what it represents.
The Ash Wednesday services reminds us we aren’t going to live forever. The pastor marks your forehead with an ashen cross and says, “Remember, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
As I enter into a new Lenten season, and as I bear the mark of ashes, I remember the day I heard the word “cancer.” I remember the bright sunshine out my hospital window as I recovered from my surgery. And I remember a Lenten season where my physical weakness allowed me space to meet God in ways I never before took time for. Because I always felt I had more time. That spring, I was forced to stop and enjoy the unfurling of a new season.
Over the years, I’ve given up many things during the Lenten season. But this Lent, I want to stop and take time to enjoy a new spring as it unfolds around me, bearing God’s handiwork and love for his creation. To truly experience life — the hard, the beautiful, the mundane.
This is a season pregnant with waiting, and I want to stop and reset and renew my soul.
To remember we celebrate the beauty of the life God has given each one of us and to not take for granted the time he grants us. Even when it is hard, and I’m just ready to do the next thing.
Maybe especially when it is hard.
I am scarred. We all bear scars – some seen and some unseen. But how will we live in the light of them?
[reminder]How are you living differently, intentionally, because of your scars? [/reminder]