Blogging Towards Ash Wednesday
I find that the hardest part of faith and living a life of faith is not the "believing" part, but more often the life in community part. It's hard to strive to be faithful and to put into practice the teachings of Jesus when we feel like others we journey with aren't following through, being authentic or integrating faith into all of their lives. In our current society it's often that those outside the church look and criticize a seemingly naive piety that is disconnected either from the way in which Christians actually live or the way in which the world is. Ash Wednesday is a celebration of our call to faithful discipleship which is based first and foremost on the confrontation of our mortality - our limits as part of the human condition - and also our recognition of our sinfulness - that we often don't live out what we desire to, or that we stray from the life path of goodness, mutuality, justice-doing, community-building, spiritual awareness and God-centeredness that the Divine One longs for us.
Jesus came to show us that path - to be that pathway for us. It's a reminder that often our spiritual practices (fasting, charity, social action, prayer, solidarity, study, contemplation) can be perverted from their intent as means of grace that center us in the presence, passion and purpose of God. It's not about beating us down as unworthy sinners, or insisting upon what often seems like an outdated notion of original sin that spreads throughout humanity through procreation (an idea coming from Augustine, not the Bible). Rather penitence, repentance, is about recognizing the depth and challenge of the human condition, that we often lose our way in the mix of our emotions, relationships, fears, anxieties and pains. As they say in recovery, "I'm......and I have a problem." The first step in change is admitting our limits: our need for repentance or a life change and our inability to change the mortality that bookends our human existence. Rather than create or reinforce existential dread, this realistic recognition of our condition invites us to move to a new place, to long for a deeper hope, to fight for what life can be and is intended to be. That's why in Lent - starting today - we challenge ourselves to take on new spiritual practices either by abstaining from distracting practices in daily life - or in trying new ways of seeking spiritual centeredness.
If you're looking for new spiritual practices to try in this season, here are some resources:
Way to Live