What if we thought of Lent as a time for healing, not just a time of self-denial?
I have a confession to make. I had a massage yesterday. On Ash Wednesday, a day not traditionally observed with acts of personal indulgence. I scheduled it without really thinking about the date, and then I woke up to find my social media feeds full of photos of smiling freezing vested clerics giving out ashes at train stations, and felt a little embarrassed at what I’d come to after only 10 days of retirement.
The thing is, I wasn’t thinking about luxury when I made the date. I was thinking about the pain in my lower back. It’s caused mostly by muscle tension; I know this because the woman I see for massage is always able to tame it for a while, and I really needed her wonderful healing touch. That’s what the massage was about for me: healing.
So what if we embraced all of Lent as a season of healing, not just enduring it as six late-winter weeks of self-denial? A time to seek wholeness, rather than a time for self-inflicted punishment for past failure?
Because isn’t that really what repentance and forgiveness are all about when you get right down to it–that turning away from the things that keep us from coming fully into the Light? The things that diminish us and keep us from flourishing as God intends.
To be healed of the things that keep us from being able to love and receive love–isn’t that what we really mean when we talk about being reconciled?
My back restored, I did also go to church for Ash Wednesday. I left home less than 15 minutes before the start of the service and was there in plenty of time, which felt crazy. And I forgot you’re supposed to have a little cash ready for the collection, which just felt stupid.
Still finding my place … eternally trying to find my place … and I guess that’s also what it’s all about, for all of us.