“Turn away from sin, repent, and hear the Good News”
Dark black ash pressed upon my forehead, the tiny frail woman ministering faithfully her duty moved on to the next penitent. A numbness overcame me as I rustle back to my seat.
“I need to chat with God for a moment”, I whispered to my children as we filed back to our pew. “Give mommy a minute to talk to God”.
The children patiently waiting, my questions flying. “Why God? Why me, why the words repent, turn, hear?”
You see, when the ashes are given, the traditional reminder heard is “Remember man you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. A sombering message in of itself.
Yet my ashes came with a muddling of the least common blessings. The rarity stood out in stark contrast to the more settling humility enducing statement. Here I was asked to consider my sin.
I have always felt different.
Where others have a calm and consistent manner, I have a storm raging within. Where others find following the crowd conforting, I find conformity unsettling. Questions are my constant companion, and discovery seems ever elusive. Even my salvation is one that seems an engagement in wrestling, wrestling down the illusions without, the demons within, and the constant dissatisfaction to change that which is wrong and make it right.
This was not news to me, that God would angle me toward the one minister in the church delivering the alternative ash blessing. Or maybe, she was prompted to give the harsher termed one, more often heard in medieval churches than in modern, the one that left little to the imagination, just for me. This was just like God to ask so much more of me than he seemed to ask of everyone else.
I smiled with God as I knelt. Knowingly, we spoke.
“Oh Mary Robin, Mary Robin, how often I have wished to calm your storms, but you would not have me. Turn away from sin, and hear the Good News. Repent!”
“Oh Lord, Iam but dust, and my storms are all encompassing. What can I, a mere mortal, do when I face you?”
“Hear, Turn, Repent”
Peeking up, the children beginning to kick the wood of their seats, the sound echoing through the vast cathedral ceilings. I gave myself one more minute to pause.
“I am here, I will repent of the sin of my self-sufficiency, I will turn from my belief only in what I can do. Show me the eye to my storm, how you can fix me there, and I will hear you now, I am listening”
It was less a promise than a plea, less a vow than a prayerfilled cry.
In my minds eye, I saw Him smiling at me with pleasure. Him not looking at the maddening mess of a person I supposed I was, but him pleased with the mindful servant I so desperately wanted to be.
I stood, my children rushing out the door to the light of day. Me, following, rushing into the sweet lightness of being in Him.