[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]
I am currently dealing with fears that I’ve been able to bury underneath the busyness of life for years. My scars are invisible but very present. God is using this as a season of purging my fears and I have decided that this Lent is about letting God have the control and not letting those fears overtake me. I have joked that this feels like the transition stage of childbirth, very painful and scary, but surely bringing joy at the end. May you be blessed this Lent!
Goodness. It’s so easy to bury fear beneath busyness, isn’t it? But it only grows in the dark. I applaud your courage and letting God have the control. Not easy, but worth it.
What a beautiful, sincere post. It made me cry realizing again and again the beauty of life and more ot that the beauty of His love.
I’m leaving presently with scares. Some of them, I forgot but others are still very “alive” in my heart, in my emotions and brain.
But one thing is sure : I won’t be able to write about them if He had not rescued me from the death, not physical but emotional death. Facing the temptation of suicide more than one time, I mesure the greatness of his power and now I know he can do all thing and rescue those who are in deep deep night and so scarry… Can’t tell you more but very happy to share with you and all your readers 🙂 God bless
Thank you for sharing, Annie!
8 months ago on his 22nd birthday, my beloved nephew Brandon saw no way out of a pain filled relationship and took his own life. He wasn’t my nephew in the ordinary sense. His mom was a single mom who had just become an RN when he was born. Living close by one another, she worked nights and weekends Thursday thru Monday mornings, so that she wouldn’t miss out on other daily and school experiences with him. So Brandon lived with us from Thursday to Monday every week since he was a month old. He grew up with our children…he was my baby too !
Anyway, since his passing I have had a terrible time with my emotions. I was baptised confirmed and married in my Church, and thought I knew All there was to know…I was wrong. I needed a Close relationship with Jesus…I need his comfort , love and assurances that my baby boy is alright, and I AM going to see him again. This is why this Lenten season is SO important to me.
Oh, JoAnn. I’m so sorry for your loss. There are no words. Only Jesus.
I never can say I looked at Lent in a traditional way or any other way, but reading this article certainly helps me both to reflect and use it as a day of remembrance. See this past Monday I gave my 1st testimony of what God has done with me. A man within hidden scars from sexual abuse as a young boy. I was so afraid, guilt ridden and ashamed. All I new how to do was bury and hope it would go away. Instead it rotted and the stench of was revealed in anger and various forms of depression and codependency.
When I went through the process of forgiveness, of myself and others because he first forgave us, and I was able to confess to others it began a process of healing, though painful it was liberating. This lent season I’m sure will remind me of His love and faithfulness
Thank you for bravely sharing your story with us, Joe. Praise our faithful God for his healing in your life!
Wow, Joe. Praise God for your heart, and for the ability to see reality for what it is. I admire your courage in recognizing the need to heal, forgive, and find liberty in doing so.
Mikkee, this is beautiful, my friend! <3
I agree. Mikkee is a beautiful writer!
Epiphany! Instead of giving-up things then receive. Sometimes to receive can be more difficult. I am not dealing with cancer. But these last several months have come with challenges. Maybe, it is time to sacrificially receive – receive Christ’s love, His peace, receive when He calls me to quiet, to rest, to spending time together which means letting go of busy-ness.
Thank you, Michele, for making me ponder this.
To answer your question, I faced death twice in 2012, and in the first instance, the cardiologist discussed “my numbers” with my daughter and me, and at one point told us the numbers were far beyond what is considered fatal. “Then why am I still here?” I asked. He wagged his head a bit, looking down at his feet. “I don’t know. You’re just lucky, I guess.”
I pondered that exchange for a very long time. I don’t believe in luck. This was God’s doing – twice. I’m here for a reason, for some purpose, and it was up to me to figure that out, and to pursue it relentlessly. Thank God above for a loving, supportive wife who also believes in this calling, and for two firm knocks on the door of my heart in 2012.
What a beautiful reminder that God is in Control – Always! I think we are all scarred in some way or another. Our physical and emotional scars can keep us from God’s greatness if we allow it. I am living very differently today because I Know His love for me, and in turn, I pray daily to be a blessing to someone else and to Glorify Him through my works. His love is like that that vitamin E oil you rubbed on your scar twice a day Mickee – the more I trust His Love and trust in Him to direct me, the less visible my scars are. You are a beautiful writer Mickee. Thank you for sharing part of your story.
Thank you, Theresa! I am glad to hear you’ve allowed God to be present in your pain.