Friday, February 24, 2012

Come Home for Lent

The following blog by Nina Frost appears on the Marble Collegiate Church web site.

“Welcome back,” said the cab driver, with no small amount of conviction, as I left LaGuardia on Tuesday, the last day of Epiphany, and headed to Marble Church, to continue preparations for the upcoming women’s retreat.

Though he asked where I was coming from (Virginia), and said nothing else during the ride, when I got out at Marble, he looked me in the eye and said it again: “Welcome back… and be well.” I wished him the same, fervently, in that way you do when you feel you have stepped into something large and mysterious and wonderful with a total stranger.

The thing is: While yes, I grew up in New York, and lived and worked for most of my life here, and am still blessed to come here periodically for work, he had no way of knowing that, and I don’t think I telegraph anything that screams New York native on her return voyage. And I am beyond happy in my Virginia home with my husband.

And yet: His words felt very apt, but not for reasons geographic. I had been thinking about Lent, which starts today, and about the journey it invites each of us to take, every year. A journey that is different for each person, and just as inscrutable.

But I believe at the heart of the Lenten journey is the invitation to return: To look long and hard at the disconnects in our lives—with God, with other people, with ourselves—and to make reparations… changes in behavior and thinking that ultimately allow someone, maybe ourselves, maybe God, to say: “Welcome back.”

In the reading many will hear at Ash Wednesday services, the words from Psalm 51 will repeat a prayer many of us also say and hope for, one way or another:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

In this prayer is the longing to come home, to be welcomed back. And as both this prayer and Lent remind, we are always needing to return… we always stray, and that straying is not a source of condemnation but, actually, the source of the desire to turn back toward God.

As we walk into this season of both promise and honest self-examination together, think of ways you are being “welcomed back.” There may be some things you need to do before that can happen. Lord knows that is true for me. But: There are metaphorical cab drivers everywhere, just waiting to help you take the first step. The rest will be up to you… you and God. Thanks be.

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