A Lenten Reflection

I shared this reflection during the Ash Wednesday service, and am sharing it here per request. May you be blessed on your Lenten journey. ~~Sharon

I was seven years old when we moved to Connecticut. I don’t remember much about the actual move, other than getting trapped in the elevator of the hotel we temporarily called home. Lightning had struck, the power went out, the elevator stopped, and my family and I along with some other hotel guests were stuck. Trapped. The air was stagnant. My mother, who is incredibly claustrophobic, was trying not to hyperventilate, my three year old brother was antsy and cranky, and I think I was more confused than anything else. If I’m remembering correctly, my dad was not in the elevator with us. Time was at a standstill – like the lightning-stopped elevator – and though we were probably only in there for 30 minutes or so it felt like HOURS. I don’t remember how we passed the time – what was said or what was done – but I do remember the hope I felt when I heard people on the other side of the door working to pry it open. I remember seeing the faintest slit of light as the doors budged just a tad. I remember fresh air hitting my face and taking the deepest breath I could. And I remember the doors opening all at once, time restarting – and my mother collapsing, fainting, landing on the ground just outside the elevator. I don’t remember much after that, other than while my dad and the medics helped revive and administer oxygen to my mom, my brother and I were whisked to the hotel cafeteria for large bowls of chocolate ice cream. I think that’s when I learned that ice cream is surefire cure-all – for anything.

Fast forward just a bit. We found a church fairly soon after settling in to our new home. I think it was the first one we visited, and while I don’t remember much about first walking in those doors, I remember feeling like I was home. I *do* remember the first children’s choir practice I joined. I remember singing and loving every second of it. I remember the Simon Says game we played at the end of each rehearsal…and how the director quickly learned I was no match for her “trick” at the end. More than anything I remember feeling like I belonged. I was loved. I was safe. I was home. No matter how shy I was or how worried I was that I didn’t fit in, there was still a place for me. In fact, as I grew up in that church, I craved being there – to be in God’s house, to hear His Word, to see His face in the amazing people who were there. As I learned the scriptures, memorized and internalized the services, and participated in the rituals, I yearned to be in that holy space as much as possible. Choir and bell choir practices, extra services, confirmation, acolyting, cantoring – being a part of God’s family was a constant breath of fresh air. No matter what was going on in my life, when those church doors opened and I walked into that comforting place, hope returned and I was free. Connected. I absolutely loved Lent – it reminded me how connected we all are, and I got to worship and experience God more deeply during the contemplative weekly evening services. It was *my* oxygen, administered by God’s people on a weekly basis. It kept me alive…and it gave me hope to continue growing and learning as one of God’s children.

I wish I could say that Lent has remained one of my favorite times. But the truth is, for the past twelve years or so, I have come to enter Lent with a sense of dread…and Ash Wednesday especially. You see, so many devastating personal losses have occurred sometime during the season of Lent these past many years. Instead of being able to live and actively participate in the hope of the Resurrection, I relive painful questions, I hear hateful voices, I sense judgment and condemnation, and I ache for those I have lost. Each year I am transported back, and the 40 days seem to drag on for an eternity (much like being stuck in that elevator so many years ago). Time stops and hope slips away. Truthfully, it’s around this time that I usually resolve myself to staying in the shadows – hiding. Staying in the shadows means minimal people are subjected to my pain and tears. It also means I am isolated and trapped in my own personal lightning-frozen elevator.

But – even when I am lost in the shadows, God shines through you and this place – inviting me to hold on to hope, to stay connected, to keep believing. And through this, something amazing has happened. By the grace of God, I can see the faintest of lights…feel a wisp of cool fresh air on my cheek…hear a soft voice that brings me hope…time actually seems to have started again!

– Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return –

I’ve experienced this as condemnation, as a painful reminder of the losses I have endured

– Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return –

The other day, out of the blue, the doors that have been fused shut for so long burst open – and it was as though oxygen was being administered by God Himself.

Remember that you are dust – you were formed and created by God’s hand in His image and adopted into His family
And to dust you shall return – you are God’s child, and just as you have been created by Him you will return to Him

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return =
Remember that you are loved, you are not alone, you belong, you are Mine

With this new breath, I realize something else – between the beginning and the end, there is time. A “dash”, if-you-will. Remember that you are dust – dash – and to dust you shall return. We are in that “dash” time now. How are we using it? How is God encouraging you to live your dash?

I realize with a new intense clarity that even though Lent is personally very difficult, staying stagnant keeps me trapped in that elevator. If Lent is a journey – how far can I possibly expect to get by not moving at all?

We are invited this Lent into God’s faithfulness. For me, that is an invitation for action. I have to *walk* this journey. Walking – moving – pressing on – engaging in the journey is what will keep my elevator doors open and the oxygen flowing. Otherwise, I am stuck in limbo with nothing but good intentions and bitter tears.

What invitation does God offer to you?

Action leads to healing and freedom.
Action leads to movement.
Action leads to living my dash.
Action leads to realizing the purpose for which I have been created.

– Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return –

As you walk these forty days of Lent…

Remember that you are loved – a beloved Child of God –
And you do not walk alone.


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