Today is Ash Wednesday - obvious to those who follow a liturgical church calendar, but to those of us raised without observances of Advent and Lent, Lent is a new dimension of faith to be explored with joy and wonder for me. The liturgy readings for today are somber and full of emotion-laden words like "repent, sin, contrition, purging, cleansing, fasting, forgiveness, and mercy." And while I have no ashes on my forehead to represent repentance, inwardly my thoughts are consumed with self-examination... figuratively lifting up the corners of the rugs that hide dirt... opening mental doors locked against the gentle Spirit who asks admittance... ready and willing to acknowledge the willful, stubborn, prideful self on the throne in the Kingdom of Kay... ready to admit how utterly lost I was until Jesus Christ - the Risen Lamb of God - took up residence in my being... requesting mercy AGAIN.
Yet, sinful though I am, I gratefully receive His love, knowing there is no cause for shame; confident that His blood thoroughly wipes out all the reasons for shame... even the ones that bring a bowed head and tears at their memory. With the Psalmist, I say "Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of sin cleanse me... A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me... Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." (Psalm 51)
I pray the prayer of Thomas A Kempis, "by loving myself badly I lost myself; by seeking only you and by truly loving you I have found both myself and you, and by that love I have reduced myself more profoundly to nothing. For you, O sweetest Lord, deal with me above all my merits and above all that I dare to hope or ask."